Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Domestic Leadership

Essential Questions    

  1. What constitutes great presidential leadership?
  2. How did Eisenhower demonstrate great leadership through his support of the Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956) and his warning about the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex (1961)?



Begin with a discussion about leadership:                                                                                                  

  • Brainstorm a list of leadership qualities we look for in a president.
  • Cite examples of how presidents you have already studied demonstrated great leadership by exhibiting these qualities.

Have students read the transcript of National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956), also called the Federal-Aid Highways Act, and answer the following questions:

  1. Describe why you think Eisenhower said that, “More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America.”
  2. What impact did this system, which according to Eisenhower involved enough concrete to build “six sidewalks to the moon,” have on the United States?
  3. What adverse effects resulted from this national highway system being built?
  4. What surprises you about the details of this law?

Select which speech is appropriate for your level of students: either the full text of the Military-Industrial Complex Speech or the Excerpt from the Farewell Address. Have students answer the following questions:

  1. How does Eisenhower define the term “Military-Industrial Complex”?
  2. What is his warning to the American people?
  3. What do you think Eisenhower means by “displaced power”?
  4. How does he suggest that the US avoid this problem?

Divide the class up into five or six groups and assign each group a series of quotes from “Eisenhower’s Notable Quotes.” Each group should create a chart with the leadership qualities discussed earlier listed down the left side of the page and the quote placed next to it that suggests that leadership quality.  Have the groups decide if Eisenhower was a great leader or not and share this with the rest of the class in a large group discussion.

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