Leadership amid change focus of Eisenhower talk

Posted Sept. 28, 2010, at 11:22 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — As a witness to some of the most turbulent times in the 20th century, Susan Eisenhower said Tuesday night that she draws inspiration from what she experienced while living in Great Britain during the 1970s and in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Her time in Great Britain coincided with the height of the Irish Republican Army bombings, commodity shortages and electricity blackouts. She saw similar social upheaval during the collapse of the Soviet Union, which saw a regime change, a series of economic meltdowns and similar shortages.

What allowed people in both places to persevere amid such extreme hardship, she said, was a mix of courage, selflessness and a sense of humor.

In her remarks during Husson University’s 2010 Presidential Speaker Series, Eisenhower — the granddaughter of President Dwight David Eisenhower who is also an author and an expert on energy, international security and relations between the Russian Federation and the United States — said she considers herself “a student of history, and I’m now at an age where I can see some of the sweep myself.” And now the United States finds itself in a time of great change.

“This is the first time we’re going to have a debate about this country in a post-World War climate,” Susan Eisenhower said. “Unfortunately, this debate is going to take place in a war situation and in the middle of an extreme economic dislocation. … To do nothing is not an option.”

Eisenhower is president of Eisenhower Group Inc., which provides strategic counsel on political, business and public affairs. She also is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and a proponent of nuclear power.

In her address, Eisenhower said she is an optimist.

“No. 1 is that people survive,” she said, adding, “People are better for their struggles, if they abandon their sense of entitlement.” That means rolling up sleeves and getting to work if the nation’s long-term problems — ranging from its ailing economy to its inadequate energy infrastructure — are going to be solved.

To that end, she said, Americans need to pull together.

“Connect with your inner resources and put aside your immediate needs of your own and think about others, and it is just amazing what comes afterward,” she said. “Together, we have to work long and hard to bring this nation of ours to some of these very same points. If we do so, we will be able to answer positively the questions about our future and do so with a sense of dignity and humility.”

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