David Eisenhower was President Eisenhower’s only grandson, and no doubt the apple of his eye. He even renamed the Maryland Presidential retreat for the boy — Camp David. David has shared a fascinating story with us in a new book called Going Home To Glory: A Memoir Of Life With Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, written with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Just 12 years old when the 34th President of the United States retired to the pastoral confines of his beloved Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm, David Eisenhower was uniquely positioned to observe what it was like to become a former President of the United States.
That ever remarkable periodic juncture involving the peaceful national transfer of power from one American president to another becomes its own unique moment chiseled in storied stone. This was certainly the case on January 20, 1961 as John F. Kennedy took the oath of office and spoke eloquently about the demands of the times. As he delivered his memorable address in the frigid air, his words accented by his Boston timbre and wisps of fleeting vapor, his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, likely felt the burdensome power of that great office leave him and attach itself to the new man in charge. Another man sitting nearby and watching, absorbed in his own thoughts, was the outgoing Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, who had lost his race to succeed Eisenhower by a controversial whisper-thin margin.
Within a few years a bridge would connect the Eisenhower and Nixon families, as Ike’s grandson David and Nixon’s daughter Julie would marry and become a potential power couple tempered by cerebral grace and quiet dignity. And as we watch the already well-formed media circus surrounding the impending nuptials of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, it is not hard to imagine what the courtship and marriage of the grandson of one U.S. President to the daughter of another would mean in our age of 24/7 saturation media-bombing.
Though just published, Going Home To Glory was actually written for the most part many years ago. During a recent conversation, David Eisenhower told me that back then, “I took nights out, worked late into the night dictating from memory my recollections of the years 1961-1969.” He said that he “came up with a draft,” only to file it away. Then about a year ago Simon & Schuster expressed interest in publishing it.
David told me that two factors brought the rough draft manuscript forward. First, though he had crafted the prose many years ago — with the voice of a much younger man — he determined to leave that alone. But he also said, “I did not trust myself with substantial revision of the manuscript I had, so Julie entered the picture as an editor. I wrote up inserts, and she and I would discuss whether the inserts should go in. We had to expand the manuscript some, and she took over as principle editor, and I was draftsman. Then I did sort of the final edit, and there you go. It’s David Eisenhower with Julie, and she deserves the ‘with’ for sure.”
This is not Eisenhower’s first literary effort to describe his illustrious grandfather. His nearly 1,000-page tome, Eisenhower At War, 1943-45, was published more than two decades ago and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Julie wrote about her mother in a wonderful 2007 book called, Pat Nixon: The Untold Story.
With a university professor’s love for research — David is director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania — he has written a book that is rich in detail without sacrificing personal warmth. And along the way, we look behind the scenes at the final years of an authentic American hero.