C-SPAN experts like Ike. Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower lands at No. 5 spot on Presidential Historians Survey.

By Deb Goodrich
Special to The Capital-Journal

I like Ike.

I really like Ike.

Apparently, so do lots of other historians and scholars. In C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who commented “the proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene,” is ranked No. 5.

Results were released this week just in time for Independence Day barbecue debates.

With each new administration, C-SPAN has asked historians and professional observers of the presidency to rank the presidents on 10 leadership qualities. This is the fourth survey since 2000, and while the criteria have remained the same, the participants have fluctuated.

This year, 142 participants carefully considered the chief executives and, for the fourth time, resoundingly slammed James Buchanan to the bottom. While “Old Buck” or “Ten-Cent Jimmy” as he was fondly called has clung to his bottom rung, Ike has moved up the ladder. From No. 9 in 2000, No. 8 in 2009, to No. 5 in 2017 and again this year, it seems Ike is firmly in the Top 5.

His fellow executives in order are Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, I am sure the same questions that gave me pause have occurred to you: How could the man who enforced desegregation and gave us the interstate highway system be ranked after the guy who gave us the Teddy Bear?

Our readers may find it interesting that the president in the No. 6 position is Harry Truman. With 150 miles or so between their hometowns and presidential libraries, these men were crucial in shaping the 20th century despite their political differences. Perhaps midwestern values overshadowed agendas.

Rachel Katz, survey project coordinator, commented that this survey is meant to fuel discussion. It already has. While mulling over my rankings, I engaged my friends and asked their opinions. The results? Presidential politics are personal.

Several years ago, I was addressing the Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg.

I said, “My grandfather was a soldier here. He served under Eisenhower.”

Eyes rolled.

“Grandpa was stationed at Camp Colt during World War I,” I continued, “and Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower was his commanding officer.”

Grandpa was a coal miner, and his lungs were scarred. He was sent to Capt. Eisenhower’s office to receive a medical discharge. Grandpa recalled that the Captain asked how he was doing, and smiled, that famous smile.

They made small talk while the future Supreme Allied Commander and 34th Ppresident signed Pvt. C. F. Bowman’s discharge.

It remains in our family today.

Deb Goodrich is the co-host, with Michelle Martin, of Around Kansas and the Garvey Texas Historian in Residence at the Fort Wallace Museum. Contact her at author.debgoodrich@gmail.com.