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Ike commemorated with 100th birthday bash

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Comedian Bob Hope and former President Gerald R. Ford joined the citizens of Gettysburg Sunday to mark the 100th birthday of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the nation's 34th president and 'everybody's friend.'

Under warm, sunny skies in the historic Civil War town, some 2,500 people gathered outside Gettysburg College to honor the World War II general known by most Americans as 'Ike.'

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'He gave me an 'I Like Ike' button,' said Hope. 'I wore it for 47 years. Those tattoos are so hard to get off.'

On Saturday night, Gettysburg College president Gordan A. Haaland, presented Hope, 84, with an honorary degree of 'Doctor of Public Service.'

On a more serious note, Hope described Eisenhower as a man 'made up of little things.'

'Some of the little things which made that smile one of the warmest smiles on earth,' said Hope. 'A smile as broad as the plains of Kansas from where he came. Ike not only represented America, he was America.'

Eisenhower, who was born in Denison, Texas, on Oct. 14, 1890, and was raised in Abiline, Kan., was praised by Hope for his faith in God and his fellow man, his integrity, his compassion and his humility.

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Noting that many people felt privileged to say they were friends with the military and political leader, Hope said, 'That was Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. presient. That was Dwight D. Eisenhower, everybody's friend.'

Ford, who visited Eisenhower at his farm near the Gettysburg battlefield long before becoming the 38th president, noted the farm was the only place Ike and his wife, Mamie, ever owned and called home as adults. The Eisenhowers purchased the farm in 1951 and retired there in 1961 after Ike's two terms as president.

Ford said Ike would be pleased to be honored through a centennial celebration of his birth, which ended five days of activities celebrating Ike's achievements.

'Through this honor on this occasion, each and every one of you are ensuring that Ike will always be remembered alongside Gettysburg's other adopted son, Abraham Lincoln,' Ford said.

Ford and Hope unveiled a bronze plaque bearing the signatures of President Bush and the four living former presidents -- Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and, of course, Ford himself.

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