1.In the United States, why is the direct leadership of the President so very important? 2.With the emerging role of the United States in mid-20th century world affairs, what evaluation can be...

1.In the United States, why is the direct leadership of the President so very important?

2.With the emerging role of the United States in mid-20th century world affairs, what evaluation can be made of the leadership styles of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy that made them effective or inhibited their effectiveness?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Whether it is a country, a state, a city, a corporation, or a small business, true leadership is of paramount importance because it establishes order and organization. A president, governor, mayor, CEO, president of a firm or the like give direction to that over which they preside as they are capable of organizing people and affairs, uniting them for common causes, thereby accomplishing necessary objectives so that the government or business can succeed. For instance, in his second term, when Democratic President Bill Clinton found himself faced with a Republican Congress, he was able "to reach across the aisle" and negotiate with Republicans in order for a budget and legislation to be enacted. Likewise, Republican President Ronald Reagan was able to counsel with a strong political foe, Tip O'Neill, Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives and negotiate with Democrats on a budget and legislation. 

2. Both Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Commander-in-Chief of All Allied Forces and five-star General, and John F. Kennedy demonstrated the strength of resolve to make important decisions and to take action when deemed necessary.

President Eisenhower

  • For the most part, Eisenhower's presidency saw domestic prosperity, but in 1958-1959 there was a recession. In an effort to aid American workers, he had illegal workers deported.
  • After the Supreme Court reached its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and the state of Arkansas refused to honor a federal court order to integrate, President Eisenhower placed the National Guard under federal control to ensure that integration would occur peacefully.
  • When Eisenhower traveled to Korea in 1952, he encountered "a military and political stalement." But, as President when he learned that the Chinese had begun a buildup in the Kaesong sanctuary, Eisenhower threatened to employ nuclear force unless China agreed to an armistice. Of course, his military prowess in WWII had impressed the Chinese and without the Russian support that China had from the deceased Stalin, China agreed to compromise on a prisoner issue. Then, in 1953 an armistice with Korea took effect.
  • Throughout his terms, Eisenhower took a hard-line approach toward Communist China, hoping to "drive a wedge" between China and the Soviet Union as he felt that if the two powers joined together, there could be great danger in such a union. In fact, he strongly endorsed a policy of liberation from Communism, rather than containment. Here is another example of his peaceful leadership:

By the end of 1954 Eisenhower's military and foreign policy experts—the NSC, JCS and State Dept.—had unanimously urged him, on no less than five occasions, to launch an atomic attack against China; yet he consistently refused to do so and felt a distinct sense of accomplishment in having sufficiently confronted communism while keeping world peace.

  • In 1956, Eisenhower forced an end to the invasion of Egypt by British, Israeli, and French forces, ending the Suez Crisis. Afterwards, the "Eisenhower Doctrine" the U.S. became the protector of unstable governments in the Middle East. 

It has been noted by historians that President Eisenhower proved himself stronger on the foreign stage than in domestic affairs as he often delegated others to deal with issues, which probably inhibited effectiveness. However, he made great use of press conferences to maintain direct contact with the American people. One of his achievements was in 1956 with his initiation and signing of a bill for the Interstate Highway System. 

President Kennedy

  • Kennedy had a number of successes in foreign affairs. In 1961, he created the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress which established better economic ties with Latin America and a defense against communism coming to this area.
  • He firmly moved forward with Civil Rights legislation.
  • In the greatest crisis of his administration, the Soviet Union sent ballistic missiles to Cuba. Kennedy showed great resolve, vowing to defend the United States at any cost with blockades made against the island. After some very tense days, the Soviet Union offered to remove the missiles provided the U.S. would not invade Cuba, and it would remove missiles from Turkey.
  • Shortly after this success, JFK very effectively negotiated the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with England and the USSR, a treaty that mitigated Cold War tensions.

President Kennedy had a personal charisma that elicited positive responses from Americans and foreign leaders alike. He was a great communicator, as well.  However, he seemed to ignore the fact that he had made enemies of many in the military, CIA, KKK, and Mafia which increased his vulnerability to personal danger. For, despite being warned not to go to Dallas, Kennedy rode in an open vehicle on November 22, 1963, and was assassinated. Perhaps his greatest mistake besides not heeding the advice not to travel to Dallas was regarding the Bay of Pigs in which it is held that he lost his resolve as he gave his consent for paramilitary and CIA invasion of Cuba but, according to certain sources who lived during this time, only went "half-way" and did not provide enough support for the counter-revolutionary Cubans. Kennedy also expanded the U.S. role in Vietnam which, of course, turned out to be a bad decision as it was for Lyndon Johnson.