Mary Eisenhower, President and CEO of People to People International (PTPI), was born during her grandfather, President Dwight Eisenhower's, first term as President of the United States in Washington DC. President Dwight Eisenhower founded PTPI on the principle that increasing international understanding between nations directly increases peace between nations. President Eisenhower would be honored by his little granddaughter Mary who grew up to continue his grand vision in the grand Eisenhower style of big thinking.
The impact Mary Eisenhower has had with People to People International towards world peace can never be fully measured. As a board member of the Greater Kansas City chapter of People to People, I have enjoyed an insider's view of the mountains this organization has moved around the world including humanitarian aid efforts, global landmine erradication, cross-cultural programs and the relationships that have been forged with world leaders who make the decisions on war or peace.
So now to my interview with Mary Eisenhower as she discusses her global visions and ideals and talks a little about her famous grandfather:
Gabrielle Reilly: Why is global understanding so important?
Mary Eisenhower: In this digital age we are all so much more connected, so it is important to be an active part of the international community. Typically conflicts have come about as a result of either ignorance, disputes over territory, mistrust, disparity, etc. By being an active citizen of the international world, through all kinds of different programs and vehicles, we dispel those conditions, thereby reducing the chance of physical conflict.
Gabrielle Reilly: You have travelled the world meeting everyone from kings and queens to the poverty stricken. What impact has this had on you and how you assist the poor and network with the influential to have a larger impact around the world?
Mary Eisenhower: The impact is the knowledge that the world's gifted come in all walks and all forms. Humanitarians are non-classed. I have seen underprivileged kids squeal with happiness in putting care bags together for other underprivileged kids; I have seen royals reach out to people in powerful positions to effect change. The common thread I have seen above all is the heart. While not emphasized often in the media, the heart transcends and invariably comes through when it comes to the welfare of humans. The biggest challenge I see is reaching people who are in the position to effect change but have found themselves in a situation where others' misfortune actually provides them with their livelihood. However, that being said, I know that this group represents the very loud minority of people. The quiet and overwhelming majority is found in the out stretch of caring arms in all walks, all religions and in all regions of the overwhelming majority of the countries I have visited.
Gabrielle Reilly: Can you tell us your thoughts on the significance of volunteer work and what added value it provides to the life of a volunteer?
Mary Eisenhower: Volunteering and willful giving are gifts from the heart. What I have learned and try to emphasize to students and volunteers is never forget: what you take away is far greater and longer lasting than anything you can leave.
Gabrielle Reilly: As President and CEO of People to People International can you tell us about the vision you have of the organization?
Mary Eisenhower: My vision for the organization is to expand awareness and participation in order to make the "People to People" concept, Peace through Understanding, a condition of the heart.
Gabrielle Reilly: What can you suggest to people who would like to assist with global understanding but are not sure what they can do?
Mary Eisenhower: There are many ways to get involved, even without travel. We encourage people to "think internationally, act locally". Any contribution to the betterment of people in general has an international benefit; the worlds' nations are so interdependent that the good welfare of one certainly breeds the good welfare of another. From caring for and listening to the elderly, to book exchanges, to care packages, to appropriate internet outreach, to cultural and humanitarian programs--the possibilities are readily available and endless.
Gabrielle Reilly: What is your favorite memory of your famous grandfather President Dwight D. Eisenhower?
Mary Eisenhower: His laugh. His embracement of life and people of all walks of life. Most of all, his belief in the resilience of human nature. It was, and still is, inspiring.
Gabrielle Reilly: What words of advice or encouragement can you give us to help improve our lives?
Mary Eisenhower: There is always hope and no one is helpless. I have seen victims move mountains. Always be active, always include others and the rest will fall into place.