THE PRESIDENCY: Commencement & Survival

  • Share
  • Read Later

"We will not be cozened out of our birthright by the prophets of doom," orated 20-year-old Charles E. Hodges, valedictorian for 120 graduating seniors at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md. The coal miner's son spoke for "thousands of graduates throughout the nation" in asking their elders "to place confidence in us." The response came minutes later on the same platform, when U.S. Citizen No. 1 praised the valedictory as the best he had ever heard, went on to match its spirit with an account of "more crusades that need to be waged." "My friends." said Dwight Eisenhower, "there are such tremendous pioneering tasks to undertake today that I believe it is almost safe to say that any one of your elders here today, if he could have one wish, would be joining this class, starting out to see what he could do about it."

Peace & Humor. The waging of a crusade was the preponderant theme for President Eisenhower as he swept through a busy week that enabled him to make the kind of personal contact that he likes. He whirred by helicopter up to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. There Commencement Speaker Eisenhower paid tribute to 899 graduates whose "loyalty to country—a perceptive, abiding loyalty—has become a guiding force in your lives." No longer, said Ike, may an officer of the military service be content to be a skilled technician capable of fighting a war.

"His function of helping prevent war and of furthering a just peace has become of transcendent importance . . . The armed forces have become, indeed, great shields to guard the peace." One helpful quality, concluded Ike, is "a healthy and lively sense of humor ... I hope your own sense of humor is sufficiently active to assure your tolerance of the thoughts I have placed before you, even if you feel no compelling reason for pondering them."

Thus the President set the keynote for the stream of commencement speeches on hundreds of U.S. campuses, as leaders from government and civic ramparts heralded the June rites (see EDUCATION). Among the most distinguished was a visitor from Britain: Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who, after a harrowing transatlantic flight and a quick Washington welcome from Secretary of State Dulles, headed for Indiana by plane and auto to deliver his views on the cold war before an audience at Indiana's DePauw University (see box).

Freedom & Reason. Though Ike completed his commencement rounds, there were still miles to go in his week. He helicoptered to Washington Airport to greet West Germany's President Theodor Heuss, 74, drove his distinguished guest to Blair House, and that evening presided over a state dinner (among the 60 guests: onetime High Commissioner of Occupied Germany John J. McCloy and onetime U.S. Military Governor Lucius D. Clay; former Ambassador to West Germany James B. Conant and present Ambassador David Bruce). In a formal exchange of toasts, Ike assured Heuss that the U.S. is united in admiration for its guest and his people, who are dedicated "today to freedom, to liberty and to the rights of man."

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2