Thursday, January 14, 2016


      One Halloween evening, when he was about ten, Eisenhower's older brothers received permission to go out trick-or-treating, a more adventurous activity in those days than it is now.  Ike wanted to go with them, but his parents told him he was too young.  He pleaded with them, watched his brothers go, and then became engulfed by uncontrolled rage.  He turned red.  His hair bristled.  Weeping and screaming, he rushed out into the front yard and began pounding his fists against the trunk of an apple tree, scraping the skin off and leaving his hands bloody and torn.
      His father shook him, lashed him with a hickory switch, and sent him up to bed.  About an hour later, with Ike sobbing into his pillow, his mother came up and sat silently rocking in the chair next to his bed.  Eventually she quoted a verse from the Bible:  "He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city."
      As she began to salve and bandage his wounds, she told her son to beware the anger and hatred burning inside.  Hatred is a futile thing, she told him, which only injures the person who harbors it.  Of all her boys, she told him, he had the most to learn about controlling his passions.
      When he was seventy-six, Eisenhower wrote, "I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life...."

-David Brooks, The Road To Character, as extracted from the chapter featuring Dwight David Eisenhower


  1. I hesitate to consider this "Parenting" when the father's actions were so heinous. Mom may have helped but in real life it's often difficult to undo this kind of damage. I'd hate for parents who condone beating their kids to think it can be undone by the warmth of the other parent.

  2. Thanks for commenting. Your point is taken, but it was definitely "Parenting." Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not it was good parenting. I passed no judgment. Just two comments: ALL (as in 100%) parents wound their children (we could have an interesting discussion on that statement) and Ike considered that event foundational in his development. S