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Lincoln Memorial - Alaska & Hawaii Indoctrination Plaque

At the time President Eisenhower took office in 1953 there were only 48 states in the Union. Although he had endorsed the admission of both the Alaskan and Hawaiian territories during the 1952 campaign, once he became President he had to wait several years before these endorsements became policy. The problem came when Eisenhower presented to the Eighty-third Congress his recommendation for the immediate approval of only Hawaii's statehood, while delaying Alaska's pending further arrangements for the administration of defense installations. Interior Department officials, some of whom were eager to open Alaska's reserves of land and resources to private development, adamantly supported the presidents reservations in order to prolong federal jurisdiction over the territory. However, in Congress, statehood for Hawaii encountered subtle but persistent opposition from southern legislators because of the territory's substantial nonwhite population. Because of his concern about defense facilities, Eisenhower threatened to veto compromise legislation for simultaneous admission of both territories. As a result of the deadlock, Alaska and Hawaii did not enter the Union until 1959 when Eisenhower finally dropped his objections that arose from his concern about maintaining federal control of defense installations on Alaskan soil. The final bill that he sent to Congress simply reserved large sections of Alaskan territory for military purposes. The discovery of oil on the Kenai Peninsula also persuaded some members of Congress that those resources would be developed more rapidly under state control. With bipartisan support, Congress passed the necessary legislation in mid-1958. Admission of Alaska, the fortyninth state on January 3, 1959 helped create sufficient pressure for the approval of Hawaiian statehood several months later.

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