David Eisenhower on his grandfather, Trump, and a happy marriage

David Eisenhower, accepting a posthumous award from the Holocaust Museum on behalf of his grandfather, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, spoke with Creative Loafing on his feelings about Donald Trump, storytelling, and the secrets of a happy marriage.

click to enlarge David Eisenhower - Nicholas Knight
Nicholas Knight
David Eisenhower

This year, the Florida Holocaust Museum is commemorating its 25th year. As part of a gala held by the museum, David Eisenhower, grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, was invited to speak and accept a posthumous award on behalf the general and former President. The award recognized the pivotal role President Eisenhower played in not only liberating, but documenting what was discovered in Nazi concentration camps.

"They wanted to make a record of it. Their feeling was that perhaps someday in the future there would be people who would wish to either deny the possibility of a crime on this scale, or deny that this could be done to Jews," Eisenhower says of his grandfather and his men. To prevent that possibility, the general ordered the filming and photographing of camps as they were liberated. At the end of World War II then-General Eisenhower decided to personally visit as many Nazi concentration camps as possible in order to document the camps and their appalling conditions.

That footage, which  his grandson, David, saw on TV as part of a documentary series, was his initiation to the subject of World War II.

"Today I think that was the most important thing that he did during the war," says David. "But I didn't always."

"From my perspective," he says, "anything that allows you to imagine what life and circumstances were like in that period is critical." He credits the Holocaust Museum with its extensive documentation for keeping these stories at the forefront, which he considers key to the prevention to future Holocausts. “I wouldn't know how to design a great museum, but this is a great one."

click to enlarge David Eisenhower - Nicholas Knight
Nicholas Knight
David Eisenhower

All of which, considering the current political climate, begs the question of how he feels about Donald Trump. “I wish him well,” he says, adding, “I understand that he represents changes, and this has made him controversial." He did concede that Trump has been "larger than life" since the 80s, and went on to say, "he does have a notion of where there are deficiencies in America today and what has to be addressed. The question is whether he can deliver on that."

Considering the length of his political life, his polished answer should come as no surprise. David, who married Richard Nixon’s daughter, Julie, was also the subject of a Credence Clearwater Revival song, “Fortunate Son,” a swipe at a lifetime of preferential treatment.

“I was completely apolitical until I met Julie. You couldn’t be in Richard Nixon’s world and not be political.”

But there was nothing political about the smile on his face when asked about his long marriage.

"Right away I knew she was special," he says. The two were married in 1968. "It doesn't seem like it's been that long." He's still smiling. We want to know the secret.

"How do you explain she's just a great person?" David asks. Later, in casual conversation, he admitted to his guilty pleasure with his daughter. “We watch The Bachelor," he says. When it comes to picking couples who are going to last, he advises her, “it’s all about the chemistry.”

click to enlarge David Eisenhower - Nicholas Knight
Nicholas Knight
David Eisenhower

David is a historian and the Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He serves as a senior research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication and is a fellow in the International Relations Department at the University. He authored Eisenhower: At War, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986.

For information on the museum’s upcoming exhibitions and events, go to flholocaustmuseum.org.



About The Author

Lisa L. Kirchner

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5a28746b3cab468d538eb081" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Lisa L. Kirchner is the author of the critically-acclaimed Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar. Her writing has appeared in book anthologies,...
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