tv Discussion on President Dwight Eisenhower and Public Relations CSPAN April 25, 2015 11:16am-12:01pm EDT
eisenhower museum and library, this program is 40 minutes. dr. parry: good evening. i have to start tonight by thanking some folks. i have always understood it took a village to raise a child, but until the last five years i did not know that it took a village to raise a scholar. i feel like the eisenhower library helped me grow up. i wrote a letter to the editor at the abilene newspaper when my book was coming out thanking the wonderful citizens of abilene, kansas and the staff at the eisenhower library. i think i said something a little tongue-in-cheek, that it is not disney but the eisenhower library that is the greatest place on earth. that i believe that, particularly for researchers. i want to tank -- i want to thank tim reid and his wonderful
staff. kevin bailey, thank you for being the best archivist on the face of the earth. the work so hard, that is such great skill, such expertise. working with me, a green researcher, he had a lot of patients and i appreciate that. -- he had a lot of patience and i appreciate that. millner, the archive technician, runs a fantastic research room. kathy helped me with the photos. literally everybody on this campus that is the eisenhower center i think helped me in one way or another. i would also like to thank retired archivist jim because you gave me the idea for this project. without him the project definitely would not have happened because it was his idea. i would like to thank -- you were all a part of this village and thank you for helping me these past few years. dwight david eisenhower was born on october 14, 1890.
we are about to celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth. during this 125 years, one thing is clear to me. that he has a legacy from the war that is his greatest legacy. he defeated hitler and save the -- and save the best and saved -- and saved the world from evil. can't top that, ok? if his greatest legacy is that he defeated hitler, liberated europe, and save the world from itself, why do we continue studying him? no matter how long we study him, that will always be his greatest legacy. the answer to that question could take an entire hour but the short version is this. we continue to study aspects of his legacy to get a more robust picture of who he is. i submit to you tonight that you
will not understand dwight d. eisenhower as the man, president, or general unless you look through the lens of public relations. i propose in my book that dwight eisenhower is perhaps the greatest public relations president in american history. now, i can channel my dissertation director, dr. david davies. if he were in the back row he would be scratching his head. what do you mean by that? what i mean as he is the most transformative pr president in american history, not that he was the greatest practitioner because he wasn't although he is among the crowd. i submit to you that he made
systemic changes in the communications field that transformed the profession of public relations more than any other president that was on it. there is a scholar named craig allen that wrote a book called "eisenhower and the mass media." he looked at what the title said, eisenhower and the mass media. what i did is look at eisenhower and pr, the field that supports the media. i want to give him a lot of credit. i built on his work and did what teachers and scholars say, i extended the historiography. he would say that eisenhower was driven by a public relations mentality. everything he did as a general and president, that was some facet of what he did.
one of the reasons why -- i was telling people the title of the book and they were an eisenhower fan and they winced, because public relations can have a bad reputation in some circles. when i say that eisenhower embraced and was driven by public relations it was not a sense that he wanted to grab glory of it was not a sense that he wanted to fool people. just the opposite. eisenhower believed that public relations, if properly practiced, was he central to -- was essential to american democracy. and he wrote that in his book "at ease." that public relations was good for american democracy. he saw it as a way for general eisenhower to get the american public on board for the war. and he saw it as a way for president eisenhower to sell his agenda. he saw it as two way communication with the public.
that is why public relations were important to him. if eisenhower indeed has played such a huge role in public relations -- and he clearly is if you examine the record -- why is he underrated in the field of pr and why has there not been scholarship on it? there has been some, but i would say not enough. i would submit to you that he is underrated and almost all of the areas. eisenhower has not been given his due on almost any of the areas so why would pr be different. one of the reasons during his lifetime was that he played a lot of golf and people got the notion that he was golfing all the time. he did play a lot of golf but he was an army man and doing exercise was a part of the job. it relaxed him. there are other reasons i think he is underrated and the first
is the nature of pr itself. there is a scholar that wrote a history of the public relations profession and he titled the history "the unseen power of public relations." public relations at its best is invisible. that is part of it. early in my career i was a reporter and when i wrote stories, i got bylines. when i became a pr practitioner, it was my client's name that got in the paper and mine was not to be seen. the nature of pr is such that the practitioner is not seeing. is not seen, is just the result. that is one reason he is underrated. another reason is offered by a scholar named fred greenstein.
he offered a book called "the hidden hand presidency: eisenhower as leader." what he said was that eisenhower was a very strong leader but what he would often do is have others carry out his wishes and he could have clean hands. if you take the unseen profession and hidden hand leader, you can see why this is an area that people have not explored much before. but tonight i would like to do that. in order to make my case that eisenhower is the most transformative public relations president in american history, i borrowed a page from the great scholar david letterman. david letterman is big on top 10 lists. i have a top 10 list for why i make this case. number one. eisenhower changed the way that presidents meet the press.
and i have a couple of things on that that i would like to say. first and foremost, the presidential news conference we are accustomed to seeing today -- the president at the podium, the press shouts out questions he answers. prior to eisenhower that did not happen. prior to him, the presidential news conference was not on the record. i find it astonishing that prior to him presidential news conference was not on the record. what reporters could do was ask questions. if there was a quote that they wanted to use liquid perhaps ask -- if they pose a quote -- if there was a quote they really wanted to use, perhaps they could ask questions, may i use this quote? generally speaking it was
information they could use but they could not quote the president. eisenhower put the news conference on the record. the other thing he did -- and you can say that he was fortunate because television was a new medium that was coming into its own. he put the presidential news conference on television. they did not have it live as it was a new medium at the time. they would tape, edit, and release it. a few reporters complained that the white house was controlling the message, but most of them were happy it was made available. eisenhower did not meet the press best but he changed way everybody else met the press. sarah mcclendon was a white house reporter said in her memoirs that eisenhower should be given credit for birthing or creating the modern presidential news conference. i submit to you that that alone is monumental. because it changed the way the
president not just interacted with the press, but the american people for the first time could see the exchange. craig allen says in his writings that one of the reasons that he did it was that eisenhower wanted to address the american people directly. james haggerty in his diary says that very thing, that eisenhower wanted to address the american people and not have a filter. that was the case here. whatever the reason he did it, it changed the nature of the communication and the american people were brought into the exchange. second, he embraced media advisers. that might not seem like a big deal today and the 21st century -- big deal today in the 21st century, because we have tv shows like "scandal" where we see media advisers running
around. this was not as common a thing in the 1950's. public relations and advertising were trying to gain traction in society and often they were seen as sort of technicians, people that could write words but they did not necessarily invent a strategy. they were sent out of the room to write to the words. what pr people wanted to do was have a seat at the table so they had discussions about the messages as well as writing them. eisenhower believed in experts. i do not know if it came from his military training. as a general he had so many people that worked with him. when he campaigned for president and governed the country, he had experts around and listened to them. that may not sound like much to you, but i tell my students that
one of the problems you will have is a public relations professional is to get your clients to take your advice. even today they do not do it. eisenhower was not a puppet but he listened to the people that he trusted. i am not saying that he single-handedly elevated media advisers but the fact that he embraced them made a difference. a couple of scholars wrote about this. nicholson wrote a book "from whistle stop to soundbite." and then a woman named jamison wrote a book called "the packaging of the presidency." they address this concept and other scholars. i have a complete bibliography and footnotes, but they talked about it a great deal and i wanted to give them some credit. number three, dwight eisenhower empowered to the office of the
-- empowered the office of the press secretary. james haggerty was the most powerful press secretary in american history and that happened in large part because eisenhower trusted advisors. another man that wrote about this is a man named james deacon who wrote an article about haggerty, the voice behind the throne. he said that haggerty was more powerful than you would think , and his power helped to elevate the public relations profession in the 1950's. haggerty did not know eisenhower well when he joined the campaign , but he proved himself. i talked to his son roger on the phone and roger told me that his father gained eisenhower's trust just through his sheer
competence. james haggerty was competent. i recognize that that was what it took. you could argue at one point secretary of state john foster dollars -- john foster dulles dies and chief of staff is to resign from what today would be a very small scandal i think. haggerty becomes the most powerful and influential aide that he has had that point. that is amazing when you think about the role of the press secretary today in a post-vietnam and post-watergate euro -- post-watergate era. often the press secretary is left out of things so he or she has deniability, i do not know what
was going on. the certainly are not the most powerful person in the inner circle of the presidency. number four -- i am cheating a little bit here because this did not occur when he was president. the authorized the army information school when he was army chief of staff. this was a school for public relations officers, p.r.o.s in the war. it trained them in journalism and techniques of pr. eisenhower believe that any misunderstanding that occurred between the army and the public was that people did not understand. he believed in the army. he believed if you could bolster the public relations training that would fix the misunderstandings on occasion. now the authorized it, i am not suggesting that some of these he did on his own, he taught the classes or anything like that. now we have a defense
information school that blends all of the different branches so i cannot claim that eisenhower founded goes but he founded an -- founded those but he founded an antecedent to those. the fact that he valued pr and authorized a school for it speaks to how much he cared for it. he gave his speech before the army information school, in which he said that public relations was a central function. i got some of that information from the army information digest. ok, number five. he created the u.s. information agency. the u.s. information agency, a lot of their duties was in the state department. there was an agency that dealt
with communications and information in the state department. eisenhower thought that was insufficient. when eisenhower became president, he created the u.s. information agency as a federal standing agency for communications. the entire purpose of this organization was public relations, because he believed that he could literally sell democracy to the world. so the first week of his administration, after he took office, he set up a committee called the jackson committee. what they did was study america's overseas information program and they found that there were a lot of overseas efforts that were stepping all over each other. they were duplicated. he thought that they should be streamlined and standalone in be their own agency, giving
them more power and visibility. this gives you some clue as to how much he valued public relations. i would argue this is the greatest manifestation of his belief in public relations. it never came fully to the fruition he wanted. it never quite realized what he wanted. in his final days, he is in walter reed hospital. president nixon has taken office , and president nixon has appointed a new director of the information agency. his name was frank shakespeare. in a booklet called "ike and the usa," shakespeare says that eisenhower invites them to walter reed to talk to him. he is in the last days of his life. frank shakespeare goes out there , and shakespeare says in his account that eisenhower spent two hours at the hospital
talking about the value of the usia and what he needed to do , and how important it was. in the first days of his administration and the last days of his life, he was still obsessed with information and selling america to the world. there are a lot of scholars that have wrote about this. a book called inventing public diplomacy. a man named david guff wrote an article about the jackson committee. sean parry giles wrote several articles about this. we are not related, he just happens to have a similar last name. i cannot stress enough how important it was for eisenhower that there was a standing federal agency for public relations.
and it lasted for 40 years roughly. i should have checked my math. it was folded back into the state department during the clinton administration because the cold war was over and it was primarily meant to combat russian propaganda and put forward our ideal of ourselves. it is not gone but it is in the state department and it is not called the u.s. information agency anymore and if i could channel like i have no doubt he -- if i could channel l -- if i could channel ike, i have no doubt he would be disappointed. number six, he helped to equalize print and electronic journalism. what i mean by that is that in the 1950's, print reigned in journalism. and television was still in its infancy. when eisenhower brought television cameras into the presidential press conference,
the power shifted, so much so that the newspaper/print people knew it and they were not happy. over time, and i am not suggesting that he didn't single-handedly, but he helped. he was given an honorary emmy for advancing broadcast journalism and the inscription talks about the professional way that he broadcast. that is a big deal, bringing the presidency and the cameras together helped. he helped to transform presidential campaigns, and he did it two different ways in two different campaigns. there are several scholars that -- i did not steal, i borrowed
ideas. noal wrote an article. craig allen wrote about this a lot. nicholson wrote about this as well. stephen wood, edwin diamond, stephen bates. martin wrote a book about madison avenue. kathleen and many more people wrote about this. when you do something for the first time, it gets written about. in 1952 what he did that was groundbreaking is that he used spot ads for the first time in a presidential campaign. and the story, all of those scholars, there is a footnote saying that it is recounted in almost all of the versions.
i will recounted here in knowing that i got it from those folks that i just read. -- i will recount it here knowing that i got it from those folks that i just read. apparently some of eisenhower's friends were playing golf one day and they were talking about a slogan that harry truman was using. and harry truman was saying, and the democrats were saying, "you have never had it so good." indicating why switch parties because with the democrats you have never had it so good. and it was a very effective slogan. an eisenhower's friends were dismayed and they went into the white house and they called a man named rosser reid who was an advertising man and said they need their own slogan. he said, what you need are spot ads. and you need to have a central message and you need to saturate the market at the right place at the right time. ike was skeptical because he
thought it was a little unseemly to sell a presidential candidate like a bar of soap. and that is exactly how adelie stevenson, his opponent, felt. but they took his advice and the did a campaign called eisenhower answers america. if you want to see some of these , you can go to a website called the living room candidate. they have the old eisenhower answers america commercials. what they did is that they found that when he read eisenhower's speeches, he had a ton of themes all over the place. so he went to george gallup and said, that they need one theme , and what did americans care about? he said, the korean war, the high cost of government.
-- the korean war, the high cost of living, and government corruption. they ended up using all three. they had eisenhower answer questions from everyday citizens. eisenhower in one day take all of the responses and then they found everyday citizens that represented everyone, different demographics, and have them ask the questions, and they spliced them together. they were questions like, one of the questions was something like, mr. president, the democrats may be wrong but don't they mean well? his response was something like, if your boss government well but -- if your bus driver meant well , but drove into a ditch wouldn't you get a new bus driver? the spot drivers were creative. -- the spot advertisements were
creative. i do not think there is any way to know if they mattered because i do not think anybody could have defeated eisenhower but they did introduce a new way of campaigning. can you imagine a presidential campaign today that did not have spot advertisements? eisenhower himself really was just a conduit and used the media advisers, i give him credit because it was his campaign. in 1956 eisenhower was a little uncertain at first whether he was going to run for reelection , because in 1955 he had a heart attack. they were worried about his health. they were not sure, could the president survive a campaign and the next four years in office? one of the things that they did was they made television commercials that were a little
bit longer and eisenhower ran a lot of his campaign on television. he did not do the traditional whistle stop where you get at the end of the train and you go from town to town and you give a stump speech. another thing was the use of the jet, you could fly. eisenhower did a lot of his 1956 campaign on television and that saved some of his energy. craig allen addresses that quite a bit in some of his writings. this one to me is the most difficult to talk about. he improved public disclosure of health information. it is a complicated thing and we could take the full hour for it and i am going to take about three minutes. one thing i can say is that eisenhower's administration made it clear that the president's
health was the public's business. but they were not always as honest as they might have claimed. eisenhower, on september 24, 1955, has a heart attack and spends seven weeks in the hospital. how do you hide that? presidents before eisenhower hid the president's condition. the fact that they declared a policy of full disclosure -- eisenhower said i do not want to keep the public in the dark. tell them, and tell them everything. james haggerty did. he talked about the food that he ate, his blood pressure, his bowel movements, everything. the press secretary did tell folks what was going on and they did have a policy of full disclosure, but when you think about the politics of being
president, it is hard to tell the complete and utter truth every day of a sick president. i have a quote that i did not think i would remember well. it is from a white house reporter named russell baker who was the reporter for the "baltimore sun." he was in denver colorado when eisenhower had his heart attack and he was there covering it. this is what russell baker has to say and i think when you hear this, you kind of give dr. howard snyder and some of the people in the information who may be did not tell the full -- who may be did not tell the full truth you cut them a little slack. this is what russell baker has to say. "a president with a heart attack was an extraordinary piece of news in 1955. there had never been one before. how serious eisenhower's might be was anybody's guess.
but a reporter would be foolish to believe the white house's statement that it was mile -- it was a mild for the simple reason that the white house would be foolish to say it was grave, even if it was." they both knew they were playing a game. "all we knew with reasonable certainty was that people often died of heart attacks, that the president had suffered one, and was still alive." baker added that this was not just a big, big story but the biggest story in the world and likely to remain so for several days to come. i think that the press at the time gave the eisenhower administration a great deal of credit for being forthcoming in light of the heart attack and they did offer a lot of material. eisenhower had two more
illnesses. he had an operation and a stroke in 1957. dr. snyder who was a good and decent man whose father and son served in the military and who served in the military as well the president had a stroke. we did not know much about strokes and he had a neurologist examine eisenhower. the neurologist told dr. snyder in 24 hours we will know if this is serious or not. he did not know exactly how to be forthcoming in that 24 hour period. after the heart attacks the stock market plummeted and dr. snyder said that it might happen again so he decided he would
wait 24 hours to tell people. he would wait until eisenhower woke up. and so he sent associate press secretary out to deal because haggerty was away. it was the president's third illness and as many years, and they did not buy that eisenhower was missing a dinner because he had a chill. they did not buy it. the king of jordan was in town , and he was not going to the dinner, and he had a speech and he canceled. the truth did come out and fortunately for the administration, eisenhower's stroke was mild and he recovered quickly. i think that it was just a
difficult thing for them to know how to navigate. i do think that they told more truth than not and they were pretty honest men. and i think that at the bottom line, it is kind of tough on how much credit to give them. at the very least, they made clear that the president's physical condition was the public's business. i had a reviewer review my book , because that is what you do. and the reviewer said something like, in this day and age, they had to tell the truth. look at john f. kennedy. he did not tell the truth about his health. we did not know how sick john f. kennedy was and there has been a lot written about that. i think they deserve a lot of credit for having the full disclosure policy but you have to be honest and say they did not always entirely live up to it.
and for that, i read several books but in part what i read was dr. snyder's own journals. he wrote a journal and an unpublished book and there were other scholars that i have read on this particular topic. there was a german article interviewed snyder but i took a lot of it from his own writings. number nine, ike opened up channels to pr professionals and that does not sound like much. public relations was trying to gain respectability in the 50's -- in the 1950's as a profession. public relations is a relatively new profession if you talk about history. depending on what historian you talk to, public relations began at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century depending on who you talk to. scott dates it before the beginning of the 20th century.
it is a little over 100 years old as a profession. people have cared about image since cavemen but as a -- have cared about image as long as mankind have lived, but as a profession it is over a hundred years old. they communicated with the jackson committee. he brought some pr professionals into the mix to talk about the u.s. information agency and there were open channels. in addition to james haggerty and his associate press secretaries, eisenhower had a man named stevie jackson who was a pr advisor. he was an extra pr advisor who had done psychological warfare in the army. eisenhower believed the public relations had ended the war quickly.
his granddaughter told me that eisenhower believed that public relations could end the cold war without bloodshed. number 10, he appointed anne as -- and williams wheaton as the first female associate press secretary in american history. he had an associate secretary that left office in may, 1957. in 1957 that was a big deal. very snyder, who was the associate press secretary wrote wheaton a letter that said your appointment was the appointment heard around the world. that was hyperbole but she did get a lot of coverage in the press for being the first woman to be in this role. that is how i found this topic
in a roundabout way. i was a public relations professor at another university before i came to university of kentucky and they always mention three women including anne wheaton. all they ever said was her title. so when i got my doctorate i said i would write about and wheaton. -- i would write about and wheaton -- i would write about a nne wheaton. she does have her own chapter in this book but i decided to write more broadly about eisenhower after talking with jim. so that is a big deal. so in short, for these 10 reasons and probably more but we are out of time, i think that eisenhower is the most transformative public relations president in american history not because he is the best practitioner. he was not the orator of a reagan, the press whisperer of a jfk. but he changed public relations at an important moment in its history.
i would like to thank three institutions that funded this research. the eisenhower foundation, the university of southern mississippi, and belmont university, my former employer. they all gave me support for this project. i would also like to thank eastern kentucky university and the only reason they did not fund me is that i am a brand-new employee. i think them for their collegiality and encouragement. the photos were provided by the eisenhower library except for the first one at the beginning of me and that is from eastern kentucky. and now i will take questions. >> please come to the microphone so that we can capture you on the camera. i have got one. milton eisenhower was probably his most influential brother.
i think she had a hidden hands role throughout dwight eisenhower's life. do you think that it is a coincidence that he was a career information officer? dr. parry: no. a woman named carla gower, a public relations historian from alabama, wrote a book called "the troubled embrace" about government and pr. he says that milton was an influence on eisenhower. she talked about it in her book. >> if there are no additional questions i would like to thank dr. parry for coming to abilene, kansas and sharing her research. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv.
38 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter. for information on our schedule of upcoming programs and to keep up with the latest history news. each week american history tv real america brings you archival films that tell the story of the very can century. on april 11, 1970 apollo 13 blasted off in what was to be the third nasa mission to land on the moon. next, a 1970 nasa documentary about the crisis that nearly left of the three astronauts stranded in space. >> april 13, 1970. the mood could be described as relaxed. i apollo 13, man's fifth balloon or mission, the third scheduled to land on the moon, continued
its tranquil coast. >> we are closing out our inspection and coming back for a pleasant evening. >> the third day and we have one more. when you have a chance we would like for you to stir up your cry out takes -- your cryotanks. >> standby. >> ok. we have a problem, here. >> say it again, please. >> houston, we have a problem. >> standby, 13, we are looking at it. >> we had a pretty large bang. as i recalled bp was the one that had a spike once before.
>> today is the 2015 white house correspondents association annual dinner. watch our live coverage on c-span starting at 6:00 p.m. eastern with the arrival of the guests on the red carpet. president obama will address the attendees in the ballroom. this entertainment is cecily strong. it is today starting at 6:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. american history tv is featuring c-span's original series, first lady's influence and image at 8:00 eastern on sunday night throughout the year. in a moment we begin with marcia washington. c-span produced the series in cooperation with the white house historical association through conversations with experts
video tors through historic sites, and questions. we tell the story of first of america's now, martha 45 first ladies. washington on "first ladies, influence and image." this is about one hour and a half. ♪ >> martha washington was george washington's confidant. >> she was a person very absorbed in beauty and capable but she did not like that. she called herself a prisoner of state. >> are the same token that everyone -- every step washington took defined the office so, in a very real sense, can it be said that everything martha washington did likewise? >> it was a business-like relationship but not without affection. i think they had deep respect and affection for each other. >>