Family surprised by presidential visit

Published 7:30 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

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There’s a heart-warming story told about how President Dwight Eisenhower surprised a family while he was vacationing in Denver.

A newspaper reporter had written an article in the form of a letter to the President to tell him about a little boy named Paul Henry Haley, who was dying of cancer. Alongside the article in the Rocky Mountain News was a picture of the six-year-old Paul Haley dressed in a cowboy outfit with his arm around his mother.

The article began, “I’m writing this story to you, Mr. President, for a young fellow who hasn’t learned to write. He wants to see you, Ike, and although he doesn’t know it, that’s his dying wish.” To Paul, President Eisenhower was a “bigger and better man” than even Hopalong Cassidy – a popular cowboy hero.

President Eisenhower read the article and said to one of his aides, “Let’s go see Paul Haley.” The presidential limousine, with American flags on the fenders, drove up that August Sunday morning in front of Paul Haley’s home.

The car doors opened and the President walked up to the house and knocked on the front door. Paul’s stepfather, Donald Haley, answered the door wearing old blue jeans, a dirty shirt and a day’s growth of beard. He asked, “Can I help you?”  To which President Eisenhower replied, “Is Paul here?  Tell him the president would like to see him.”

Little Paul walked around his dad’s legs and looked into the face of the President, who knelt down and shook his hand. Described as “wide-eyed and unbelieving,” Paul walked into the living room with the President. Eisenhower reportedly smiled and said, “Paul, I understand you wanted to see me.”

They visited about five minutes. Then, Paul walked outside and got to inspect the presidential limousine. The President told him that he had a grandson about Paul’s age – Dwight David Eisenhower, II. He hugged the little boy and they shook hands and said good-bye. Then, the President drove away.

What a surprise the Haley family experienced that Sunday morning! After the visit, Donald Haley remarked, “How can I ever forget standing there dressed like I was in those jeans and old, dirty shirt and an unshaven face to meet the president of the United States?”

The spiritual lesson we can learn from this story comes from Donald Haley’s experience. One day each of us will stand before the authority of the universe, our Creator God. We do not know the day or time it will happen, but the Bible states that you and I will stand before God to be judged. Read Hebrews 9:27.

But we are all unclean, and “all our righteousness is like filthy rags,” (Isaiah 64:6). So how can sinful people like us stand before a holy God? God has proved His love for us while we were still sinners, when Christ died for us. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson once said, “Jesus Christ is God’s everything for man’s total needs.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”