On March 24, 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower was sequestered at Walter Reed Hospital, dying of congestive heart failure. Against his doctor’s wishes, Eisenhower used some of his final moments to dictate his last correspondence. The letter wasn’t to a family member or political ally, but to a man who had been a constant in Eisenhower’s career since his days as a general: Irving Berlin.
In the letter, Eisenhower mentions that Berlin’s music was a constant during his stay in the hospital, bringing him pleasure during “expert treatment by attentive doctors and nurses.” But Ike and Irving go way back—Berlin actually wrote a song called “They Like Ike” for his musical Call Me Madam starring Ethel Merman, a tune Eisenhower adopted as his 1952 campaign song. The song may have been the origin for the “I Like Ike” slogan that was so hugely successful during Eisenhower’s run.
Perhaps as a thank you, Eisenhower awarded Berlin the Congressional Gold Medal in 1955 for writing “God Bless America” and other patriotic songs. Fourteen years later, in his final letter, Eisenhower thanked Berlin for the "wonderful melodies," and seemed to know that the end was near, writing, "I hope all is well with you and yours---please do not bother to respond." He died just four days after this fond farewell to his favorite musician.
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