Dwight D. Eisenhower was lauded on the 100th anniversary of his birth as the man who laid the foundation for the social and political changes that swept Europe in the past year.
"It is most fitting that the centennial of Ike's birth falls during this particular year," former President Gerald Ford said Sunday. "For 1990 has seen the realization of Ike's most cherished dreams and the fruition of his finest work."Ford was among some 1,500 people who paid tribute to the World War II commander and 34th president in ceremonies at Gettysburg College, near where Eisenhower retired with his wife, Mamie, after his two terms in office. He died in 1969.
"How much we all wish that Ike could have witnessed the events of the past year: human achievement of peace, justice and freedom in Europe, for which he laid the foundation in World War II and during his presidency," Ford said.
As supreme allied commander in Europe in the early '50s, Eisenhower set up NATO defense forces. During his presidency, he committed the United States to a strong anti-communist stance. He sought to ease Cold War tensions, but a summit with Nikita Khrushchev in 1960 broke off in a dispute over spy flights over the Soviet Union.
In another birthday observance Sunday, about 30,000 people crowded Ike's hometown of Abilene, Kan. Hundreds of World War II veterans showed up.