I recently visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, which was a spectacular way to spend an afternoon. While visiting, I picked up a book, “Gettysburg Replies.” The premise of the book is simple — a number of prominent Americans were invited to pen a 272-word (the number of words in the Gettysburg Address) essay, celebrating the actual address, Lincoln or almost anything else that the writer felt passionate about.
While I was not invited, nor am I considered prominent, it was a challenge I couldn’t refuse. So here goes…
In our great country’s long, storied and checkered past, a past filled with many heroic and accomplished men and women, three men have stood above all others — presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Without George Washington as the general and commander in chief of the Continental Army, the United States would never have existed.
Without President Lincoln, we would have destroyed ourselves. And without General Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces on D-Day, we would have been destroyed from the outside.
Though all three men served as presidents, both Washington and Eisenhower are included because of the work they did as generals.
During the American Revolutionary War, Washington was a near unanimous choice to lead our fledgling Army against what was then the most powerful nation on Earth, Great Britain. After we had won the war and gained our independence, Washington was an equally popular choice to be our first president.
Lincoln was a surprise winner of the 1860 presidential election, and he surprised the country again when he won reelection in 1864. He held the country together during the Civil War — a time when we were trying to tear ourselves apart — freed the slaves and freed America from slavery.
Eisenhower was very much a compromise selection by Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt to lead the D-Day invasion, the success of which meant the difference between winning World War II and losing our country.
And while these leaders’ paths and popularity differed, their commitment to the U.S. and its causes (starting a country, preserving a country and defending a country) were exactly the same — and indispensable.