David and Leslie had a couple of things in common: each had volatile tempers, and both of them had mothers who believed those tempers could and should be controlled.
David was known to get so enraged as a boy that he would punch his fists repeatedly into the trunk of a tree until his knuckles were a bloody mess. When he finally calmed down, his mother gently bandaged his hands and recited Proverbs 16:32 over and over until the words were ingrained in his memory: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
Leslie also had trouble keeping his cool. He frequently went off in a rage, letting his temper get the best of him. Whenever he did this, his mother made him sit down and write Rudyard Kipling‘s poem, “If”:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As it turns out, the boys had a couple more things in common. Neither of them used their birth names for long. David would eventually switch his first and middle names, but it was by his nickname, “Ike,” that most people knew him.
Leslie inherited his name and his temper from his father, Leslie Lynch King, Sr. It was his step-father, however, whose integrity and work ethic he sought to copy. Leslie eventually chose to copy his step-father’s name as well.
With these things in common, it shouldn’t be too surprising that both men enlisted in the military. They also ended up living in the same large white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Those two hotheads who learned to control their temper through the persistence of patient mothers, were Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford.
Read more fun facts about Presidents.
Read more fun facts about mothers.