Prior to my work on the forthcoming movie The Fever of ’57 (which will be released in time for the 50th anniversary of Sputnik this October – keep an eye out!), I was much more familiar with the later half of the Cold War rather than its origins. Through my research into the beginnings of the Space Age, however, I discovered a dirty secret of mine:

Yes, that’s right: my name is Zoë, I am all of 27 years old, and I like Ike!

Superficially speaking, this is an unlikely statement for someone of my generation to make. How many people in their 20’s can say that they have admiration for a President who led our country over half a century ago? There was no Al Qaeda, no internet, no advanced weaponry… so who cares?

And of course my confession is made even stranger given my political inclinations. Not only was Eisenhower a Republican (gasp!), but also a five-star general. Therefore one would assume he was inclined to go to war at a moment’s notice, right?

Wrong! As our movie goes to great lengths to show, Ike’s military background actually made him painfully aware of the costs of war, and thus he tried every possible measure to achieve peace. He even struggled with his own armed forces, who urged that he play an accelerated game of brinksmanship to beat the Soviets. Ike, of course, recognized that this would only serve to aggravate the Soviets further.

Many accounts of Eisenhower’s presidency portray him as a bumbling golf-playing fool. Initially, I would have been inclined to believe them. But as I delved further into his policies, I saw that he was truly an innovative and peace-loving leader who succeeded in keeping our country on track during a time of tremendous unrest, both domestic and international.

What’s more, he prevented long-term steps from being taken that would have practically ensured the start of World War III. The creation of NASA, although vilified by the armed forces who felt it was their right to maintain the space programs they’d started, was a brilliant move. By creating a civilian space agency, Ike created bureaucratic obstacles to prevent his successors from taking the Cold War into space too quickly. This didn’t always work (e.g. Kennedy’s race for the moon, Reagan’s Star Wars efforts), but it was a valiant try nonetheless.

In other words, despite his uncanny resemblance to Yoda (thanks to Maggie for pointing that one out)…

… I still like Ike.

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