By Fatemeh Paryavi
Around 250 student and faculty members came to see Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, give a lecture on the implications of decision-making in World War II.
Held at the John S. Toll Physics Building on Tuesday, the lecture was dedicated to the late parents of this university’s Physics and Engineering Department Prof. Howard Milchberg, Irving and Renee Milchberg, who were witnesses and victims of oppression.
The lecture, entitled “Lessons from 1945: Ethics, the War in Europe, and its Enduring Legacy,” aimed to give voice to victims of oppression like the Milchbergs who survived dire situations and were victims of ideologies and lies accepted in society as facts.
Eisenhower said she wanted to connect “lyricists” and “physicists” at the physics lecture. And although the lecture was held at the physics building, it was not entirely focused on physics alone.
A few physics graduates didn’t feel the lecture addressed ethical problems that arise in their field of study.
Eli Mizrachi, a physics graduate student who attended the lecture, said that although he was excited to learn more about ethics in his field, Eisenhower’s message was hard to keep track of.
“I think at various points she was contrasting ethical scenarios in WWII with examples of ethical failures of today,” he said. He also stated that he felt it seemed ironic to “romanticize” the heroes of a time period where there were numerous “moral and ethical failures that were inflicted on minorities and people of color.”
Eisenhower spoke about many different people in the WWII era and the sacrifices they made in order to save lives or to shape our world as we know it today.
She humored the audience when she mentioned that the audience might have heard of her grandfather’s significant role in the war—as he was a five star general in the U.S. army during WWII.
She continued that it is important to consider “what the word ‘hero’ really means, not the way it is casually used these days.”
She said that although some may complain of leadership at the top, we should look for leadership amongst ourselves as well.
Though the lecture was met with mixed reviews, Eisenhower’s message was resilient—that even “small matters can grow into larger ones.” With that message, she urged the audience to do what’s right and to make the right decisions because historically, the “small decisions had made all the difference.”
Donny Pearson, a physics graduate student, found the lecture valuable.
“It’s always interesting to hear about ethics in our field and historical consequences,” he said.
He continued that although you learn about ethics in school, he was there to learn more about ethics and how it relates to his field of study.