Eisenhower’s great-grandson speaks at Rotary Club
Merrill Eisenhower Atwater was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Concordia's luncheon held at the Nazarene Motherhouse on Thursday.
Atwater, the great-grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is the Chief Executive Officer of People to People International, a non-profit organization dedicated to humanitarian work, cultural exchange and global education for people of all ages.
Founded in Washington D.C. in 1956, the national headquarters is now located in Kansas City, Missouri.
Before joining People to People International, Atwater served as the Director of Aviation for the Kansas Department of Transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Science in History and Interpersonal Communications from Missouri Western State University, and in 2015 he received his master’s in business administration with an emphasis in international business relations from Baker University.
"In 1944 and 1945, the United States was propelled through Europe and Asia, and saw the worst type of devastation and the worst kind of war that we've ever seen in the history of the world," Atwater said. "95% of the city of Warsaw, Poland, was destroyed... there was mass genocide of an entire religious population... we saw the worst that could happen on the Pacific side, as well."
Atwater noted that more lives were lost during the invasion of Normandy in World War II than all the current American conflicts, combined.
In the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower is known for his role as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, and for being the 34th President of the United States.
"But around the world, Ike was known for his diplomacy," Atwater said. "People to People was founded because he saw the worst of humanity, and believed that, as individuals, you and I could make a difference. It's not the government's responsibility to promote peace; it's our responsibility, because at the end of the day, we're all just human beings."
After World War II, then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower imagined a "Peace through Understanding" that now serves as the root of People to People International's mission.
"President Eisenhower believed that everyday citizens wanted a more peaceful world and could achieve it more effectively without government interference."
Atwater has received numerous awards and recognitions. In 2016 he was recognized as one of the most influential and accomplished leaders of business in the “40 under 40” designation in the KC Metro area. In 2017 he won the Aviation Impact Award from the FAA, and his team was awarded National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO’s) Center for Aviation Research and Education Award for their work on creating STEM curriculum for use in high schools throughout the State of Kansas.