Eisenhower at Dartmouth

Eisenhower at Dartmouth

View "Eisenhower At Dartmouth"

See Library Catalog Entry






Film Details

Date 1953
Description 38m 52s; black and white, sound
Narrator Norman R. Bander, '54
Producer Robert L. Allen for Dartmouth College Films
Photographer and Editor Blair Watson
Technical Assistance Adrian Bouchard


This is the story of President Eisenhower's trip to the Dartmouth campus on Saturday June 13, 1953, to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws and give the Commencement Address. The film includes preparations for the Presidential visit (stage-setting) and all of the major events (welcoming party, Commencement) from the time the President landed at Lebanon airport to his departure eighteen hours later.

President Dickey took charge of planning the visit and the College Librarian welcomed the party when they arrived at the College. After the Commencement Eisenhower spoke informally to the graduating class. There is an automobile tour of the campus with College President Dickey and portions of Eisenhower's speech "Don't join the book burners." Views of Dartmouth Green, Baker Library lawn, and Lebanon airport are included. See Library Catalog entry.


NARRATOR: On Saturday, June 13, 1953, the President of the United States arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire to receive the honorary degree Doctor of Laws from Dartmouth College. Following the commencement exercises on Sunday, June 14, he spoke informally to the graduating class. He was at Dartmouth eighteen hours. This is the story of his visit.


The central committee started its long series of meetings in April, as soon as word was received from the White House that President Eisenhower had accepted Dartmouth's invitation. President Dickey, assisted by Vice President and Treasurer John Mack (?), took charge of all planning. Sidney Hayward, chairman of the Commencement Committee, presided at many of the meetings. Mr. Chamberlain was liaison with the Secret Service, Mr. Premberton (?) and Mr. Jordan handled press matters, and Mr. Allen was in charge of seating on commencement morning. The responsibility for much detail was assumed by Richard Olmstead, who, as head of the Department of Plans and Operations, compiled thirty pages of charts, maps, and directives for his large crew.

From the start, it was clear that preparation for our visitor would mean more than just tidying up the guest room. For the second time in its 185-year-history, a president of the United States would receive an honorary degree from Dartmouth, and the college wanted to be ready.

We could expect about three times as many guests as we have citizens in our town. We could be sure that everything would be stretched to the limit: living accommodations, parking space, eating facilities, and our supply of folding chairs. The University of New Hampshire helped by loaning some, and others came in vans from New York. And there was the question of where we could set out 10,000 chairs. Finally, the lawn in front of Baker Library was selected.

The public address system was tried out at the commencement rehearsal. The rehearsal was time-consuming, but the whole program had to be taken up in detail, and all of the new procedures ironed out thoroughly. Sometimes it was best to settle a point with an impromptu committee meeting. John H. Sigler, valedictorian of 1953, was one of the students who took his place behind the rostrum. The rostrum had been made to exact specifications from Washington. True, it was larger than usual, but it wasn't until Mr. Chamberlain checked the line of sight that it was realized that the rostrum would cut the view of the platform for several hundred people in the audience. It was another problem on a hot afternoon. The old pine rostrum that had been used for many other Commencements was called back into service, and proved to be a fine background for the presidential seal that was soon to be hung on it.


On the evening of the president's arrival, the group that was to travel in the motorcade to the airport assembled well beforehand. Two buses were reserved for the press, and the reporters from The Dartmouth were out in full force. The Secret Service directed the operation, and was in touch with the progress of President Eisenhower's plane by radio. The radio crackled back and forth as everyone waited for the signal to [INAUDIBLE]. The special built car that had been driven up from Washington to take President Eisenhower from the airport drew its share of sightseers. The radio crackled once more, and the signal was given.

The road to the airport was completely cleared for the trip. The stairway that had been flown into the Lebanon field for the president's use was almost as tall as the airport building. While the group waited, the weather office confirmed the obvious: the outlook was gray, perhaps black. The forecast was rain with no letup in sight. Attention focused on President Dickey as President Eisenhower's host, not only for Dartmouth College, but on behalf of the whole North Country. The special National Guard detail posted around the field had raincoats, but President Eisenhower's driver, with one last look at the sky, proclaimed himself an optimist.

Whatever other features the car might have had, it certainly lacked a push-button top. The airport is partially rimmed by hills, and the first plane appeared quite suddenly. It carried the press that travels with the president. The plane carrying the president and his party was flying near the field in a wide circle, waiting for the press plane to land so its passengers could be on the job when the Columbine set down.

Although President Eisenhower was flying in from North Dakota, the field was not strange to his pilot. He had made a special flight to Lebanon a month beforehand to practice landings. President Dickey greeted President Eisenhower and Sherman Adams, Class of 1920, the assistant to the president, who would also receive an honorary degree.

People lined the road all the way from the airport. In Hanover, the motorcade slowed almost to a walk as they were forced to clear a way through the crowd for the president's car. A number of people peeped over President Dickey's wall, hoping to catch a glimpse of his house guest. But they'd have to wait until the next day.


On Sunday morning, the Dickey household was up early, and Christina and Rusty compared notes on how it seemed to have two presidents in the house. Mr. Adams wanted to be sure that President Eisenhower had a good look at Dartmouth, and so a private tour was made early in the morning to avoid crowds. Our photographer was permitted to ride in the Secret Service car that followed President Eisenhower. Mr. Adams' son, Sam, joined them for the tour. At Baker Library, they were met by the college librarian Richard Morgan and taken on a tour. In front of the library, a crew was wiping the dew off the chairs. By then it was certain that there would be no rain. All of the weather forecasters had been wrong. The party left the library by a rear door. The Secret Service men kept the situation well in hand at all times.

The president headed up the Lyme Road to the golf course. They were greeted by Tom Keene, Dartmouth's golf coach, at the famous fourteenth ski jump hole. If the president had his clubs with him, he might have taken a few practice shots. But that was taken care of. Would he? Or wouldn't he? He wouldn't. But at least President Dickey pointed out the angles.

There was a fine view of the fairways near the outing club house. As they drove by Occom Pond, Mr. Adams suggested that they drop in unexpectedly on Dr. John F. Gile, longtime trustee of Dartmouth. It wasn't much past breakfast time. (14:10) But the audience had already started gathering for the Commencement. It was bright and clear. Former Dean Neidlinger and President Emeritus Hopkins, walking to get their robes, agreed that the weather was perfect. A Green Key man escorted the Commencement speaker Lester B. Pearson, Canada's Minister for External Affairs.

Because of the number of visiting newsmen, including radio and television, they were housed in South Massachusetts Hall, and a newsroom was set up in Dartmouth's little theater, complete even to a battery of teletypes. The usual formal pictures of the trustees and honorary degree recipients would be taken. Others who would receive honorary degrees were Grenville Clark, John J. McCloy, Joseph M. Crosscower, and Hugh Greg, the governor of New Hampshire.


Only after they had been shot from every angle could the procession start. The procession went south along Main Street, then east to the middle of the campus, and then down through the long center aisle to the platform in front of Baker Library. The faculty marched after the students, followed by the honorary degree recipients. Although a complete alternate plan was in hand for use if heavy rain had forced the exercises indoors, including such details as just who was responsible for putting cups of water on the speaker's platform, it was fortunate that the plan didn't have to be used, because only about one-fifth the number of spectators could have been accommodated. About the only hazard from the weather was the chance of sunburn, and this had been taken into account for those on the platform. The platform awning had been made based on calculations from the Astronomy Department that placed the sun to be at an angle of 59 degrees, 40 minutes.

Mr. Pearson's address was well received. The honorary degree recipients were then called forth in turn by the Dean of the Faculty Donald H. Morrison. The last called was Dwight David Eisenhower.

MORRISON: Mr. President, in 1952, you were a relatively innocent bystander at a new discovery of awesome portent for American political geography. Establishing that the high road from Texas via Kansas to Washington runs plum through New Hampshire. The eminence of the presidency precludes the bestowal of greater honor. And all too often sends off even those words of encouragement and gentle praise on which each man's life is somewhat borne forward. May we not, however, mark this historic Dartmouth day with these few words for your remembering. No great captain ever gave to free men everywhere such confidence in the reality of their collective strength for the common defense of God's peace. To you who have given us this and more, our appreciation paradoxically is best expressed by the quality of what we ask for tomorrow. That, sir, in daily deed, is the measure of the liberating arts we here profess. In this mission, and with your honored acceptance of her Doctorate of Laws, Dartmouth is privileged to [INAUDIBLE] you her [INAUDIBLE].

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, there is a small item by way of a dividend which goes with that degree. STUDENT: On behalf of the class of 1953, this senior cane, the traditional symbol of Dartmouth friendship. EISENHOWER: Thank you very much.


Members of Dartmouth's family and their friends. Your president possesses a brash bravery approaching foolhardiness when he gives to me, at this platform, in front of such an audience with no other admonition except to say, "Speak informally," and giving me no limits of any other kind. But I have certain limitations of my own I've learned throughout these many years. And I think they will serve to keep me from offending too deep. But, even if I do offend, I beg in advance the pardon of those families and friends, sweethearts that are waiting to greet these new graduates with a chaste handshake of congratulations, and assure you that any overstaying of my time was unintentional and just merely a product of my past upbringing.

First, I could not pass this occasion without the traditional congratulations to this class. The completion of four years of arduous work at a college of such standing as Dartmouth, and of which there is no higher. Next, I think I may be pardoned if I congratulate you on the quality of the addresses you have heard today up to this moment. I think that your commencement address and the two valedictory addresses established a standard that could well be one to be emulated even here and the future.

Now with your permission I want to talk about two points, two qualities today, that are purely personal. I'm not going to be an exhorter, as Secretary Pearson has said. I want to talk about these two things and merely suggest to you certain ideas. I'm going to talk about fun, joy, happiness—just fun in life. And I'm going to talk a little about courage. Now as to fun. To get myself straight at once, for fear that in my garrulous way I might stray from my point, I shall say this. Unless each day can be looked back upon by an individual as one in which he has had some fun, some joy, some real satisfaction, that day is a loss. It is unchristian and wicked in my opinion to allow such a thing to occur. Now, there are many, many different things, thoughts, and ideas that will contribute, and the acts of your own will contribute to the fun you have out of life.

You go along a bank, a stream bank in the tropics, and there is a crocodile lying in the sun. He looks a picture of contentment. They tell me that often they live to be a great age, a hundred years or more. They're still lying in the sun, that's all they do. Now by going to Dartmouth, by coming this far along the road, you have achieved certain standards and one of those standards is, it is no longer so easy for you to have fun. You can't be like a crocodile and sleep away your life. And besides that, you must do something, and normally it must involve others, something you do for them. The satisfaction, it's trite but it's true, the satisfaction of a clear conscience. No matter what happens, you get a lot of fun out of shooting a good game of golf. But you wouldn't have the slightest fun out of it if you knew to achieve that first 79, if you broke 80 today. If you did it by teeing up in the rough or taking the slightest advantage anywhere and no one else in the world but you knew it, that game would never be a 79 to you. And so it wasn't worthwhile because you had no fun doing it.

Whatever you do, a little help to someone along the road, something you've achieved because you worked hard for it, like your graduation diploma today. Those things have become worthwhile, in your own estimation will contribute to your happiness. They will measure up to your standards because your standards have become those that only you know, but they have become very high and if you do those things, they are the kind of thing that satisfy you, and make life something that is joyous that'll cause your face to spread out a little instead of drawing up this way, and there's too much of that in the world anyway. You are leaders, you're bound to be leaders, you've had advantages that make you a leader to someone whether you know it or not. There will be tough problems to solve, you've heard about them. You can't solve them with long faces, they don't solve problems. Not when they deal with humans. Humans have to have confidence, you've got to help give it to them.

This brings me up to my second little topic, which is courage. You must have courage to look at all about you with honest eyes. Above all, yourself. When we go back to our standards, have you actually measured up? If you have, it's that courage to look at yourself and say, "Well, I failed miserably there, I hurt someone's feelings needlessly, I lost my temper." Which you must never do except deliberately. Each of us as he passes along should strive to add something. It isn't enough merely to say, "I love America," and to salute the flag and take off your hat as it goes by, and to help sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Wonderful. We love to do them. And our hearts swell with pride because those who went before you worked to give to us today standing here this pride.

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book as long as any document does not offend any of our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship. How will we defeat Communism unless we know what it is? What it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men? Why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It's almost a religion, albeit one of the nether region. And we've got to fight it was something better, not trying to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America and even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them in places where they are accessible to others is unquestioned or it's not America.

I could not go back to my chair without saying that my sense of distinction in Dartmouth's honorary doctorate, in the overgenerous, extravagantly overgenerous remarks of your president, in awarding me that doctorate. In the presence of this cane from the young men of the graduating class, all of these things are very precious to me. I have been fortunate in that my life has been spent with America's young men. Probably one of the finest things that has happened to me in a very long life. I thank you again for this.


NARRATOR: President Eisenhower had to be on Long Island that afternoon. It was a tight schedule. His crew waited for him while he finished a hurried lunch at President Dickey's house and then left for the airport at 2:05 PM. He was to be aboard at 2:25. The Air Force made sure the Columbine's propellers were lined up. Walter Proger (?), Dartmouth's ski coach, helped out with the crew's luggage. The president arrived right on schedule. He thanked some of the policemen who had worked with the Secret Service on security matters. And then there was a warm farewell with President Dickey. It was difficult to realize that he had been with us only 18 hours. But the words he spoke will remain with Dartmouth College and other free institutions everywhere that are dedicated, in the words of President Dickey, to the maintenance of a free and honest marketplace for the exposition, exchange, and evaluation of ideas.

Films Home - Collections Home - Digital Home