American Prophet: Dwight D. Eisenhower

The prophets of the Bible are individuals chosen by God to speak for God.  Many mentions of prophets are made in the Bible. In fact, a section of the Old Testament is devoted to a collection of books by them. Their names, and quotes, appear all over the New Testament and are the subject of sermons to this day.

What they all had in common was a heart for God, an anointing to hear from Him, and the faithfulness to impart his message to others.

“For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Prophets speak loudly from the pages of the past, their words seem to take on greater meaning over time, are more relevant than ever and provide us with insights into the past and counsel for our present and future.

As a fan of American history, I often think of historic figures as similar to the prophets of the Bible, whose lives, experiences, achievements and words take on greater meaning over time and provide us with guidance concerning the great challenges we face today as a nation.

In my view, three such American Prophets are former Presidents George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, each of whom presented the American people with prophetic farewell messages that speak loudly today and, if we listen closely, can provide us with guidance and counsel to guide our collective future.

Like George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower was a commanding general who led American and Allied forces in a great war for freedom… this time overseas on foreign soil. Just as General George Washington led his troops across the Delaware in a surprise attack against Hessian troops during a pivotal battle in the Revolutionary War, General Eisenhower oversaw the D-Day amphibious invasion across the British Channel to liberate France from Nazi Germany…a pivotal battle in the Second World War.

Also, like Washington, President Eisenhower’s prevailing interest was keeping the United States out of another war with rival international powers. After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the United States and the world were now in a nuclear age and Eisenhower knew world war could mean global devastation.

Eisenhower also oversaw a post war economic boom and an expansion of another kind… an expansion of government, including in the military, intelligence agencies and the buildup of military equipment and materiel, to support a “peace through strength” foreign policy.

The post-World War II era also saw an expansion in the use of “experts” from academia and the business world who sought to apply sophisticated research models to address… but not often resolve public policy concerns.

Safe to say, as a Midwesterner from the Kansas Plains and as a military leader with experience dealing with bureaucracies, Eisenhower was a skeptic of big government.

President Eisenhower delivered his farewell address during a live, television broadcast on January 17, 1961.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties…. But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future.

Eisenhower was concerned about the undue influence wrought by the close relationship between military leaders and war planners, with the private sector contractors that supply the military with equipment, materiel and technology and the members of Congress who approve the expenditures.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist…. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Eisenhower was also skeptical of the potential corrupting influence of government funding adversely impacting the independence of universities, academic researchers, and scientists. He was concerned the federal bureaucracy might join forces with academics to form an intellectual elite that may seek to dominate public policy to the detriment of the people and their elected representatives.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded…Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Eisenhower’s advice to his peers and successors was to carefully manage these interests while prioritizing the nation’s democratic institutions and ensuring individual liberty.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Like Washington, Eisenhower concluded his comments by encouraging Americans to be guided by their faith in the Almighty and govern with humility and a commitment to principle.

You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

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