Eisenhower at Dartmouth: ‘Don’t Join the Book Burners’

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Rockefeller Center to mark a newsworthy presidential speech 70 years ago.

President Eisenhower and Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey at the 1953 Commencement ceremony.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, left, and Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey at the 1953 Commencement ceremony. (Courtesy of Dartmouth Library) 

A speech at Dartmouth in which President Dwight D. Eisenhower weighed in against McCarthyism will be the topic of an online event Monday at 4 p.m., presented by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Class of 1953.

Speaking via livestream, William Hitchcock, the James Madison Professor of History at the University of Virginia, will present the Constitution Day lecture commemorating Eisenhower’s visit to campus in 1953 to give the Commencement address.

Historian William Hitchcock will speak at an event commemorating Dwight D. Eisenhower's visit to campus.
Historian William Hitchcock will speak at an online event commemorating Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to campus in 1953. 

An expert on 20th-century policy and diplomacy, Hitchcock is the author of several books, including The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s, a New York Times bestseller. His talk will explore the president’s approach to confronting Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s.

Eisenhower, who rarely criticized McCarthy publicly, made headlines with advice he offered during his Commencement speech. “Don’t join the book burners” was understood to be a swipe at the Wisconsin Republican, who asserted that the U.S. government had been infiltrated by communists.

Jason Barabas ’93, director of the Rockefeller Center, says the issues Eisenhower covered in his 1953 address—particularly the free exchange of ideas and perspectives—are still important today.

“Policy solutions for the 21st century often benefit from brave, diverse discussions,” Barabas says.

Edward Miller, chair of the Department of Asian Societies, Cultures, and Languages, will moderate the event.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that it is now an online event.

Aimee Minbiole