Cover Image: The Soul of an American President

The Soul of an American President

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The Soul of an American President: The Untold Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Faith is an interesting read and I liked it. I give it four stars.
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Being the daughter of a Normandy veteran, I was especially interested in reading this book.

It is widely known that General Eisenhower did mention the Almighty God in his order that was issued before the D-Day invasion.  The book traces the faith heritage of previous generations.  While most of his family was of the Anabaptist (Brethren) faith, Ike's mother did convert to Jehovah's Witness after the death of one of her sons.  The rest of the family did not convert.

The book goes into more details of his various transfers around the country during his early Army years, as well as, the marriage to Mamie Doud, and the death of their first son.  Mamie was a Presbyterian.

He did not want his private faith to be used as a political motive.  He chose to be baptized in the Presbyterian faith privately after his inauguration.  He was a regular attendee of the Presbyterian church both in D.C. and in Gettysburg.  He often counseled with Billy Graham, as well as, his own pastors during the after the Presidency.  

The National Prayer Breakfast tradition was started during the Eisenhower administration.  At the urging of the Knights of Columbus, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the administration.

Recommended for public libraries and libraries with Christianity collections.
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Many US presidential candidates claim Christian faith. We might wonder if the faith is real or if a candidate is a skilled politician just using the claim of faith to further their political career. Eisenhower came under much criticism for his faith and the authors tried to find out if his faith was genuine.

Some of the criticism of Eisenhower's claim to faith arose from the religious experiences of his parents. Ike's religious heritage was in Germany and his ancestor's involvement with Anabaptists. Emigration to America resulted in his parents being involved in the Brethren and then the Jehovah's Witness. Failed prophecy resulted in his father's disillusionment but his mother remained committed to the movement to the end of her life. She did not approve of Ike choosing a career in the military at the Witnesses are pacifist and anti-military.

Ike's military career is reviewed. Often the authors write that Eisenhower's spiritual life is vague or unknown. Mamie, whom Ike married after graduating West Point, had Presbyterian roots. When Ike was elected president and wanted to attend a church in Washington, DC, he chose a Presbyterian one because of his wife's faith. Eisenhower corresponded with Billy Graham and there is assurance Ike had saving faith after the election. He then became quite outspoken about that faith. While “the 1952 election was a turning point in his faith...” I still remain quite unclear as to the nature of Ike's faith before his presidency. (1862/3952) The authors attribute the misunderstandings about Eisenhower's faith to Ike's not wanting “people to perceive that his faith was for political gain.” (1916/3952)

This is a selective biography for readers who want to understand the faith of a US president, particularly while in the office. Many of Ike's prayers, statements and actions reflecting his faith are documented in the second half of the book. They “indicate that Ike's religious awakening upon assuming the presidency was genuine.” (2073/3952) Eisenhower's faith was important in the era of increasing tension with the generally atheistic Soviet Union.

Most of the book serves as a general biography, recounting Ike's military career and presidential experiences. Readers will gain a better understanding of the issues precipitating the Cold War. They will also realize the origin of some religious aspects, such as “one nation under God” and find seeds for the National Day of Prayer. The book does verify Eisenhower's genuine faith later in life but is vague about his military years.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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This was a wonderful book about an often-overlooked part of the life of Dwight David Eisenhower--his faith.
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