A Presidential Profile
Many of our nation’s Presidents have had remarkable but untold stories. The
following story about President Eisenhower, published over a generation ago,
was so inspiring that we wanted to share it with you.
A Question of Courage
by Grace Perkins Oursler
(Reprinted from a 1959 Readers Digest School Reader, condensed and adapted
from a Guideposts article.)
The boy had fallen, running home after school, and skinned his left knee. It
was no more than a scratch. His trousers were not even torn, but by night the
knee had begun to ache. Nothing much, he thought, being 13 and the sturdy son
of a frontiersman. Ignoring the pain, he knelt and said his prayers. Then he
climbed into bed in the room where he and his five brothers slept.
His leg was painful the next morning, but he still did not tell anyone. Life
on the farm kept everyone busy. He always had to be up at six to do his chores
before school. He had to do them well or he would be sent back to do them over
again, no matter what else he had to miss, including meals. In his home, discipline
was fair but stern.
Two mornings later the leg ached too badly for him to drag himself to the
barn. It was Sunday and he could stay home while the rest of the family drove
to town. He sat in the parlor and dozed until his brothers returned from Sunday
Mom and Dad did not come home with them because Sunday was parents’ day off.
The boys did the housework and cooked the big meal of the week, while mother
and father stayed on to attend church.
The Fight Begins
But by the time dinner was ready, the boy had climbed into bed. The shoe had
to be cut off his swollen and discolored leg.
“Why on earth didn’t you tell somebody?” asked his mother. “Go quick,” she
called to his father, “and fetch the doctor.”
She bathed the knee, foot and thigh, and wiped the boy’s sweating forehead
with a moist, cool cloth. Even as she watched the angry infection grow worse,
she remained calm. Mom had nursed her boys through accidents and ailments from
toothaches to scarlet fever. One son she had lost, but that only made her calmer
and more determined to fight for the others.
Old Dr. Conklin examined the leg and shook his head. “It’s not likely we can
The invalid sat up stiffly.
“What’s that mean?” he asked huskily.
“It means,” explained the doctor gently, “if things get worse we’ll have to
cut off your leg.”
“Not me!” stormed the boy. “I won’t have it! I’d rather die!” “The longer
we wait, the more we will have to take off,” urged the doctor.
“You won’t take any off!” The boy’s voice broke with a youthful crack, as his
mother turned away, shaken. But there was the look of a man in the boy’s eyes.
A Promise to be Kept
Dr. Conklin stalked out, nodding to the mother to follow him. As he stood in
the hallway explaining to the parents what probably would happen, they could
hear the sick boy calling for his brother: “Ed! Ed! Come up here, will you?”
The brother stamped in. Then they heard the sick lad’s voice, high pitched
with pain: “If I go out of my head, Ed, don’t let them cut off my leg. Promise
me, Ed – promise!”
In a moment Ed came out and ran to the kitchen. When he returned his mother
said, “Ed, what’s your brother asking for?”
“Fork. To bite on; to keep from screaming.”
Then Ed stood outside the bedroom door, his arms folded. Quite clearly he was
Ed looked straight at Dr. Conklin. “Nobody’s going to saw off that leg!” he
“But, Ed – you’ll be sorry,” gasped the doctor.
“Maybe so, Doc. But I gave him my word.”
And nothing changed that. If Ed had not stood his ground, father and mother
might have yielded. They were not yet sure that amputation was necessary. The
stubborn attitude first of the sick boy and then of his brother was unbelievable,
for defiance of authority was unknown in that home. Yet there was Ed, standing
before the sickroom door.
“Guess we’ll wait and see how he looks by tonight, eh, Doc?” said the father.
For two days and nights Ed stood guard, sleeping at the threshold, not leaving
even to eat. The fever mounted and the suffering boy became delirious, babbling
with pain. The older brother did not weaken, even though the discoloration of
the swollen leg was creeping toward the hip. Ed remained firm because he had
given his promise. Also he shared the frontiersman’s dread of being less than
physically perfect. A man needed his arms and legs to do the hard work on a
The parents knew that their son would never forgive an amputation, and Ed stood
firm whenever the doctor returned. Once, in helpless rage, Dr. Conklin shouted,
“It’s murder! Nothing but a miracle can save the boy now.” He left, slamming
the front door.
Mother, father and watchful Ed shared the same thought as their anxious eyes
turned from the doorway. Had they forgotten their faith because of their fears?
Why, this sick boy’s grandfather, that vigorous and inspiring old farmer-minister,
had always believed in healings through faith. Now, in this desperate hour,
the three went to their knees at the bedside.
They prayed, taking turns in leading one another. Father, mother – and at last
Edgar – each would rise in turn, go about the farm work and rejoin the continual
prayer. During the second night the other four brothers joined in the prayers.
The next morning, when the faithful old doctor stopped by again, his experienced
eye saw a sign. The swelling was going down!
Dr. Conklin closed his eyes and made a rusty prayer of his own – a prayer of
thanksgiving. Even after the sick boy dropped into a normal sleep, one member
of the family after another kept the prayer vigil all through the night.
It was nightfall again and the lamps were lighted when the boy opened his eyes.
The swelling was away down now. The discoloration had almost faded. In three
weeks – pale and weak, but with eyes clear and voice strong – the boy could
once again stand up.
And Ike Eisenhower was ready to face life.”
(End of reprinted article)
This early Divine intervention by God in the life of a young Dwight Eisenhower
produced a later blessing to America and the world.
The Story of a Leader
Eisenhower was born in 1890 in Texas and raised as a Presbyterian in Kansas.
His mother had been a Mennonite and was a strong pacifist who morally opposed
war, but the young Eisenhower believed that the best way to ensure peace was
through a strong military. He therefore applied and was accepted at West Point
Military Academy, where he graduated as a commissioned army officer in 1915.
Prior to World War II, Eisenhower served as a young officer under General Douglas
McArthur in the Philippines. When the War broke out, Eisenhower was assigned
to command a military training base in Louisiana with almost half-a-million
soldiers. General George Marshall was so impressed with Eisenhower’s abilities
that he made him the liaison between American and British strategists in London;
and Prime Minister Winston Churchill was so taken with Eisenhower’s skills that
he had him appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces
in Europe. As a result of Eisenhower’s leadership – particularly through bold
measures such as the D-Day invasion – the Nazis and their allies were crushed
and a wave of freedom swept across Europe and the world.
Following his service in World War II, Eisenhower became the very first chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, served a brief stint as president
of Columbia University, was named the Supreme Commander of NATO, and was elected
US President in 1952.
Throughout Ike’s life, his early religious training – more apparent at some
times than at others – never fully departed him. For example, at his first Presidential
Inauguration in 1953, Ike took his oath of office upon two Bibles – the one
used by George Washington in his 1789 inauguration, and the one given to Ike
by his mother upon his graduation from West Point. After being sworn in, Ike
personally offered the inaugural prayer rather than having a minister do so:
My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate
to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private
prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads:
“Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment, my future associates in the
executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full
and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and
their fellow citizens everywhere. Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly
right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby,
and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be
for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling. May cooperation
be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our
Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for
the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.”
During his first term, Eisenhower signed the federal law inserting the phrase
“under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. Why? According to Eisenhower:
In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s
heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual
weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace
For his second inauguration, Eisenhower was actually sworn in twice. Because
the legally designated inaugural day fell on a Sunday, Ike refused to have a
public ceremony; the official oath was administered to him on the Sabbath in
private. The following day, however, he had a public ceremony and was sworn
in (again) before large crowds at the Capitol, taking his oath on his West Point
Bible as he had at his first inauguration.
Eisenhower literally was used of God to bless Europe, America, and the entire
world, none of whom would have experienced that blessing had not God sovereignly
intervened in Ike’s life during his youth.
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