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ARTWORK BY NORMAN ROCKWELL


When the Commander-in-Chief orders more then a military parade

    Thursday, February 8, 2018 -- (Long Beach, CA) -- In July, America’s current president observed the massive Bastille Day parade in France, a display of military might similar to Russia’s May Day chest-pounding.

    Perhaps it is easy and delightful for the world’s most powerful soul to sign the order that commands the most powerful military on the globe to march in a bigger, greater parade then one would see in Paris or Moscow.

    Is the President’s current order for a giant parade -- one that will likely convince arms buyers where to spend money -- the best way for a Commander-in-Chief to show our greatest power?

    Ask Dwight David Eisenhower, of Kansas.

    America’s 34th president shortly after World War Two, Dwight Eisenhower started the 20th century at the US Army’s West Point and spent decades rising through the ranks to finally lead the most powerful military in the world.

    Eisenhower graduated West Point, as the nation’s military moved troops and supplies on horseback and wagons. Mules carried weapons and ammunition up mountains. The tank and aircraft came only after the man from Kansas finished West Point.

    When Herbert Hoover sat in the Oval Office, Eisenhower had risen to the job of deputy to the Army’s chief, Douglas MacArthur, but the military languished. Since the nation’s economy had collapsed in 1929, Hoover ordered massive reductions on military capability. Ships were been sunk and planes destroyed to lower costs. With few personnel in uniform and little work to do, Eisenhower spent most of Herbert Hoover’s presidency reading western novels in a quiet office in Washington.

    In the year of Hoover’s reelection, a rag-tag camp of homeless veterans who had fought for the United Stated Expeditionary Force led by General John J. Pershing begged the President to rescue them. For months, while Eisenhower read cowboy books, the President did nothing as the Doughboys who won the “Great War” shivered in the District of Columbia.

    Finally, when summer arrived, the Commander-in-Chief issued an order to MacArthur and Eisenhower. They were commanded not to rescue the veterans who had carried the Flag to victory in World War One, but to use armed troops to crush Hooverville and eject veterans begging for compensation that the government had promised a decade earlier.

    Eisenhower caught a taxi with his boss, after President Hoover ordered the military to show the District of Columbia how great the military can look. Eisenhower watched, as MacArthur ordered General George Patton to lead young soldiers on horses to gallop in attack and crack heads while clunky tanks rolled over tents. The President’s likely opponent in the 1932 election -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the governor of America’s largest state -- was stunned reading news of the Army’s crackdown, saying that the Commander-in-Chief instead should have ordered sandwiches and coffee for the Doughboys.

    In November 1932, voters said that the way to save America was to fire one president and hire a leader who promised a “New Deal” for ordinary Americans. Roosevelt -- a rich man who angered the super-rich by putting them last -- changed everything in America, including the military. Telling the American people that “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself,” the new President raised taxes, hired workers, rebuilt banks, grew the economy, expanded the military, and rescued ordinary Americans from the economic collapse, after everyone endured years of Hoover doing nothing beyond cracking heads in the capitol.

    When Roosevelt -- the new Commander-in-Chief -- sent Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines, to craft the region’s military strength, Dwight Eisenhower rose to the top of the ranks in Washington. Eisenhower led the military, as Roosevelt carefully guided America through neutrality-yet-strength while Europe disintegration into open warfare and the Empire of Japan waged conquest across the Pacific.

    On December 7th 1941, the United States suffered thousands killed, when the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, on a Hawaiian island few knew anything about. President Roosevelt addressed Congress, saying that “a day that shall live in infamy” threw America the global war, now known as World War Two.

    While it falls on Congress to grant any war, it is the President who serves as Commander-in-Chief. Douglas MacArthur -- now desperately defending the Philippines against the Japanese -- got Roosevelt’s order to lead all forces in the Pacific. The Commander-in-Chief ordered Dwight David Eisenhower to lead forces in Europe.

    Because the pen shows the ultimate power of a Commander-in-Chief, so too is it that humility displays greater strength than the chest-pounding to order of a parade.

    Just as GEORGE WASHINGTON fell to his knees to ask GOD for HIS help in defeating a King, and ABRAHAM LINCOLN ordered Glory to rescue our imperfect Union from open rebellion, FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT sat on a battleship not to pound his chest, but to join with a half-American -- an Englishman named WINSTON CHURCHILL -- to pray with soldiers and sailors for GOD to help defeat thugs and genocidal killers.

    Though each of the three are viewed by historians as the only “great” presidents, each looked upward, in ultimate humility, and showed souls who would risk their own lives that the greatness of this nation is not given, but earned.

    As MacArthur pushed through muddy islands of the Pacific, Eisenhower ordered troops to sweep across the desert and climb mountains. Roosevelt and Churchill stood together not for parades, but fighting Axis forces waging a brutal global war of hatred. No one could tell in 1942 whether the Allies would win. Thousands lost their lives as leaders faced uncertainty as to the outcome.

    Even when the tide turned and Allied forces invaded the French coast, in June 1944, General Eisenhower called to his troops to share in his plea to God, that their bravery would be His gift, in victory. The other letter that stayed in his pocket was to admit in defeat that the only soul who carried the cross of defeat was himself. Thankfully, by the greatest display of power was not the pounding of the chest, but the absolute courage of ordinary Americans, pushing their way through gun shots and explosions, onto beaches, and up cliffs, embraced by God’s Grace, to finally push back thugs and murders.

    The final victory in Europe, in May 1945, came one month after Franklin Delano Roosevelt lose his own life. When the President died in April, the New York Times -- the nation’s largest newspaper, which each day on the front page listed ever name and rank of souls lost -- declared simply, “ROOSEVELT, Franklin D., New York, Commander-in-Chief.”

    To march Victory in Europe Day, massive parades in New York and across the nation welcomed Dwight Eisenhower and military service personnel from four long years of war. Only when Douglas MacArthur ordered Japanese leaders onto America’s largest battleship in the waters of Tokyo to absolute surrender did the world’s most brutal war finally end. Fully 11 million Americans wore the uniform, in a nation of 150 million.

    When Roosevelt’s successor -- Harry Truman -- faced his own reelection, in 1948, both the Democratic and Republican parties tried to recruit Dwight David Eisenhower to run for the job of Commander-in-Chief. After his initial decline, Eisenhower agreed to run in 1952, to lead a country that rose from humility to become the greatest power in the world. With the rise of atomic and nuclear weapons and a Cold War against the Soviet Union, Eisenhower held the heaviest burden of any Commander-in-Chief. All souls on the planet could be lost when fire and brimstone rained down from planes, ships and ground-launched missiles.

    And so, as the American people rose from the ashes of a Great Depression and achieved victory in a global war, few expected that the newest Commander-in-Chief would do more than address the troops and visit academies and bases. President Eisenhower, however, did not order American military forces to march before him in a great parade, so Americans could pound the chest harder then a May Day in Moscow or the Bastille Day in Paris.

    Instead, the soldier who read cowboy books and oversaw a nation at risk of nuclear war showed his greatest power in 1957, in perhaps the most civil action shown by a Commander-in-Chief. Dwight David Eisenhower used a pen and issued the order that America’s might would march into Little Rock, Arkansas, not to parade weapons or pound the chest, but instead walk children to school.

    Few expected the leader of the Republican party and a former military chief to do much about racial tension in America. But when Eisenhower’s new Chief Justice delivered a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court that “separate is not equal,” racial tension turned into raw violence. Within a year after the Court’s Brown v. Board decision that ordered an end to segregation, the tension grew so brutal that children faced attacks on their way to school.

    Addressing the American people, President Eisenhower correctly said that, “We cannot legislate the human heart.” Indeed, while hatred may be a poison, the self-inflicted cost of drinking that foul concoction is not itself a crime. But when children got attacked when going to school, America’s Commander-in-Chief showed the meaning of an order’s greatest power.

    Dwight Eisenhower put his pen to paper and ordered state troops be federalized to protect Black students admitted to the all-White high school in Little Rock. The artwork that opens this opinion is by Norman Rockwell and shows one little girl being escorted by federalized marshals, and mirrors the tension that drew harsh criticism of Eisenhower’s action. Though not depiction Little Rock, the art echoes the greatest weight borne in a President’s order.

    Now, America’s newest president has issued his own order, commanding military forces conduct a massive parade. The rich man from New York who wears a great hat can sit with his beautiful wife to see the greatest parade in the world to display more might then can be seen on Bastille Day or May Day.

    If the use of the pen by this Commander-in-Chief is so he can watch a grand parade, perhaps ordinary Americans are right to wonder about deep division and racial tension shall also be confronted. The poison of hatred is ripping America apart. Even the Third Man in the military’s Chain-of-Command is openly opposed to the President’s position to deport Dreamers in uniform.

    As this Commander-in-Chief smiles as his wife watches planes fly over them and performs a proud salute as troops march before him, let this newest President learn that greatness is not given for a hat or parade, but instead is earned, by a humble soul acting through righteous words and Glory’s deeds.

-- Billy Orton






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Billy Orton is a novelist and historian living in Long Beach, California.