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50 years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning

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While the farewell address may be remembered primarily for the passages about the military-industrial complex, Ike was rising above the issues of the day to appeal to his countrymen to put the nation and its future first. "We . . . must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

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As I see my grandfather's black-and-white image deliver these words, a simple thought lingers in my mind: This man was speaking for me, for us. We are those grandchildren. We are the great beneficiaries of his generation's prudence and sacrifice.

Until today, perhaps, we have taken American leadership, dominance and prosperity for granted. In those intervening years, we rarely asked if our policies were sustainable over the long haul. Indeed, it has only been since the catastrophic financial meltdown in 2008 that we've begun to think about the generational responsibilities we have for our grandchildren's prosperity and welfare.

Eisenhower's words, from the beginning of his presidency to the end, come back to us from the mists of another era. They remind us, sadly, that sometimes we must revisit our past to learn what we have always known.

Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, is an energy and international affairs expert and chairman emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute.


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