A single act or character trait may be instrumental in deciding an individual’s future path. In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s case, it was because of his perseverance in requesting a recommendation from his U.S. Senator – twice – that he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. This is just one of the interesting details of Eisenhower’s life discovered as the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) developed lesson plans and timeline content for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s website .
The website provides a preview of the forthcoming physical memorial near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as well as highlights of Eisenhower’s achievements as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and as the 34th president of the United States. As part of the site’s educational mission, significant events in Eisenhower’s life are explored through seven Pivotal Moments: West Point, D-Day, NATO, Winning the Presidency, Waging Peace, Little Rock, and Space Race via text, photographs and videos. The videos contain interviews with President William J. Clinton, Secretary of State Colin Powell, astronauts John Glenn and Eileen Collins, and Eisenhower’s grandson David Eisenhower among others.
RRCHNM created the content for an interactive timeline that connects viewers with key events in both Eisenhower’s life and in world history during his lifetime. His life spanned an era of great change from the closing of the American frontier in 1890, the year of his birth, to the first landing on the moon in 1969, the year Eisenhower died. The timeline contextualizes Eisenhower’s achievements within other national and world events.
RRCHNM worked with secondary school teachers and military historian Christopher Hamner to develop middle and high school curriculum units based on these seven pivotal moments. Teachers can download the freely available units and related materials for classroom use.
In “D-Day: Advising Eisenhower,” for example, students explore the complexity of preparing for a massive invasion by acting as advisors to General Eisenhower. They provide him with vital information about geography, weather, German air capabilities, and French Resistance support in the region.
In “The 1952 Election: A New Kind of Campaign,” students learn how the introduction of television changed the way presidential campaigns were run and develop a media strategy for Eisenhower on one campaign issue.
A wide variety of primary and secondary sources are included in the lesson plans, such as D-Day maps, images from the early years of space exploration, and de-classified government documents. There is also a letter from an advisor recommending that Eisenhower consider George Washington’s Farewell Speech as inspiration for his own final speech to the nation as president. Each plan contains suggestions for differentiation and assessment. These units will be useful for teaching World War II, 20th-century U.S. and world history.