In the midst of the 1958 election campaign just ended the President of the United States took an evening off for an appearance and an address that were purely nonpolitical. The scene was New York City and the occasion was a business-suit dinner that brought together 2,000 Americans with a great deal—all of it nonpolitical—in common. A roving spotlight picked them out as they stood up at their tables, men with such names as Cliff Battles, Jay Berwanger, Bill Dudley, Otto Graham, Howard Harpster, Elmer Layden, Ernie Nevers, Bob Neyland, George Pfann, Erny Pinkert, George Sauer, Ben Ticknor and Alex Wojciechowicz. On the dais and elsewhere in the crowd were the men in the picture above, and such others as Earl Blaik, Harry Kipke, Lou Little, Tom Hamilton, Edgar Garbisch, Marshall Goldberg, Pug Lund, Dutch Schwab, Harry Stuhldreher, Harry Killinger Young and—in spirit—Tad Jones and a host of others. The talk, as you have guessed by now, was of football, and the President of the United States vigorously enjoyed himself.
The chief purpose of the dinner—apart from the presentation of a gold medal to the President in recognition of his lifetime devotion to the game—was to honor the latest men elected to the Football Hall of Fame, and the theme was struck by the chairman of the National Football Foundation, Chester J. LaRoche, who called football "a spiritual resource that breeds will and drive—a phenomenon unique to our country."
President Eisenhower, a West Point football player of '15, had some thoughts himself, which he delivered after a bow to another old West Point athlete sitting a few feet away—"my old chief, General MacArthur." Present, too, were most of the award men of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S 1957 Silver Anniversary All-America and many of the judges who elected them (SI, Dec. 23). President Eisenhower congratulated these men in his first words and seemed to have their career achievements in mind as he proceeded:
"In football, in business, in politics, in the trades, professions and the arts, the normal urge to excel provides one of the most hopeful assurances that our kind of society will continue to advance and prosper.
"Morale—the will to win, the fighting heart—are the honored hallmarks of the football coach and player, as they are of the enterprising executive, the successful troop leader, the established artist and the dedicated teacher and scientist.
"This morale—this will and this heart—we need not only as individuals but collectively as athletic teams, as business organizations—indeed as a nation....
"This requires fitness—fitness in its deepest and broadest sense. We know that fitness is far more than a healthy body. It is more than an alert, disciplined mind.
"Fitness is the sum of all values which enable a man to act effectively in his nation's behalf.... In this environment, fitness is man's maximum development to make all of us a stronger nation."
Nonpolitically, we vote for that.