By The Librarian
The mother of US President Eisenhower
Did Ida Eisenhower Die a Jehovah's Witness?
When researching Eisenhower's religion "Since so little original documentation exists, most historians have relied on interviews with persons who knew David and Ida" (Branigar 1994:1). Of the large amount of information available, one has to determine which conclusions were historically accurate--sometimes no easy task. One of the most reliable sources is Gladys Dodd's thesis because she used scores of personal interviews with the family, many of whom she was personally acquainted with, to study the religious background of the Eisenhower family in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, some Watchtower sources are questionable.
Dr. Holt, the director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower library in Abilene, Kansas indicates that the Watchtower may be involved in passing documents off as real which are evidently forgeries (1999). Specifically, interviews with family members has led J. Earl Endacott, a former Eisenhower library curator, to conclude that it was a 1944 incident which led to the dismissal of Ida's nurse, Mrs. Engle, who was then an active Jehovah's Witness.
The source of this information was Mrs. Robinson, who became Ida's nurse after Engle's dismissal. She claimed that Engle and another Witness conned Ida to write her name several times on a blank sheet of paper under the pretense of giving her "practice." According to Mrs. Robinson, the most legible signature was then physically cut from the sheet and pasted on the bottom of the letter to Mr. Boeckel which was not written by Mrs. Eisenhower but by Engle. Endacott concluded Engle had "more loyalty to the Witnesses" than to the Eisenhower's to whom she was distantly related. Later "in one of her lucid moments Ida told Mrs. Robinson what had happened and gave the sheet with the cut out name to her. When the Eisenhower foundation took over the home, Mrs. Robinson told me the story and gave me the sheet which I still have" (Endacott, N.D.).
This letter she allegedly wrote was to a Richard Boeckel, a young man who had become a Jehovah's Witness while still in the army (Boeckel, 1980). In August of 1944 Boeckel attended a Watchtower assembly in Denver where he met Lotta Thayer, Ida's neighbor from Abilene. In his conversations with her, Boeckel explained the difficulty of being a Witness in a military environment. Thayer then reportedly told him that her neighbor was General Eisenhower's mother, and added that "she's one of Jehovah's Witnesses" and asked Boeckel if he would like her to write to him (Knorr, 1980:24-29). Boeckel wrote Ida, and part of the letter Ida allegedly wrote back to him stated,
To encourage Boeckel to accept Watchtower doctrines, the letter mentioned several current events which the Watchtower then taught was evidence that Armageddon would occur very soon, concluding that "Surely this portends that very soon the glorious Theocracy, the long promised kingdom of Jehovah...will rule the entire earth and pour out manifold blessings upon all peoples who are of good will towards Him. All others will be removed [killed at Armageddon]. Again, may I urge your ever faithfulness to these 'Higher Powers' and to the New World now so very near." The letter dated August 20, 1944, evidently had the taped signature "Ida Eisenhower" affixed to it and closed with "Respectfully yours in hope of and as a fighter for the New World" (Cole, 1955:191).
This Ida Eisenhower letter, Endacott concluded, was "not in the words of Ida, who at the time could hardly write her own name" and evidentially she was not always mentally alert although her physical health was good. Her memory started to fail soon after her husband died and was at times so poor that she could not even remember her own son's names (Eisenhower, 1974:188). Furthermore, this letter is very well written quite in contrast to the letter she wrote in her own hand dated 1943 (see Cole 1955). When the Eisenhower sons found out about this event (evidentially a reporter published the letter putatively written by Ida Eisenhower to Mr. Boeckel) and other similar incidences, they wrote to Engle exploiting Ida (Kornitzer 1955). The letter was evidentially ignored by Engle and then Milton was given the task of dismissing her. At this time, Milton hired non-Witness Mrs. Robinson to help take care of Ida.
It would appear that Richard Boeckel would immediately be suspicious when he received the letter with Mrs. Eisenhower's signature obviously taped on it. He should have confirmed that the letter was genuine before he made claims about receiving a letter from Ida Eisenhower. His story and a photo reproduction of the letter was published in Marley Cole's book Jehovah's Witnesses and other sources, and Boeckel repeated the claims about the letter in his life story published in the October 15, 1980 Watchtower. At the minimum, the Watchtower Society, Mr. Boeckel, and Marley Cole have unethically presented a letter as genuine evidentially without verification. If Mrs. Eisenhower's letter is verified to be valid, the allegations that her letter is a forgery should be squashed. So far the Watchtower has not answered several inquiries about this matter. The Eisenhower museum has agreed to pay for a handwriting expert to examine the letter, but all attempts to obtain the cooperation of the Watchtower have so-far failed.
Merle Miller related an experience involving Boeckel and this letter which reveals the irony of Eisenhower's mother's faith:
Suspicion that the letter was a forgery is also supported by a Watchtower teaching called The Theocratic Warfare Doctrine. The Theocratic Warfare doctrine essentially teaches that it is appropriate to withhold the truth from "people who are not entitled to it" to further the Watchtower's interests (Reed, 1992; Franz, 1971:1060-1061). Reed defines Theocratic War Strategy as the approval to lie "to outsiders when deemed necessary" and also to deceive outsiders to advance the Watchtower's interests (Reed, 1995:40). In the words of Kotwall the Watchtower teaches that "to lie and deceive in the interest of their religion is Scripturally approved" (Kotwall, 1997:1). Jehovah's Witnesses do not always lie outright, but they often lie according to the court's definition--not telling "the whole truth and nothing but the truth," which means the court requires the whole story, not half-truths or deception (Bergman 1998). In the words of Raines, theocratic warfare in practice means "deceiving" to protect and advance the interests of "God's people" especially God's "organization the Watchtower" (Raines, 1996:20).
Nonetheless, I found no evidence that either parent was not a devoted Watchtower adherent when the Eisenhower boys were raised. If Mrs. Eisenhower's allegiance to the Watchtower waned as she got older, this would not affect the fact that her boys were raised as Witnesses, but would help us to better understand Ida Eisenhower.
In conclusion, Ida probably did not resign from the Witnesses and still saw herself as one. The reasons for concluding Ida Eisenhower mailed other letters at about the same time that she allegedly mentioned her Witness commitment to Boeckel include a handwritten letter to fellow Witness Mrs. H. I. Lawson of Long Island, N.Y., in 1943 (Cole, 1955). Although this letter could be a forgery as well, no one has voiced this concern yet.
New York Times, Sept. 12, 1946, p. 7. In addition, a front page Wichita Beacon (April 1943) article about Ida's Watchtower assembly attendance gave no indication that she was then disenchanted with Jehovah's Witnesses. The article stated that "the 82 year old mother of Americas famous military leader. . . was the center of attraction at the meeting Sunday, and her name was heard in just about every conversation, speech and discussion. The program's subject was 'how to become a good Jehovah's Witness." No evidence exists that only a year later she rejected Watchtower teachings or had resigned. These facts do not prove the letter is not a forgery, nor do they demonstrate the commonly alleged view that she became a Witness only in her later years when she was becoming senile, as often implied by many authors.
History of Bergman's perspective:
Eisenhower's family originally belonged to the local River Brethren sect of the Mennonites. However, when Ike was five years old, his parents became followers of the WatchTower Society, whose members later took the name Jehovah's Witnesses. The Eisenhower home served as the local WatchTower meeting Hall from 1896 to 1915, when Eisenhower's father stopped regularly associating due to the WatchTower's failed prophesies that Armageddon would occur in October 1914 and 1915. Ike's father received a WatchTower funeral when he died in the 1940s. Ike's mother continued as an active Jehovah's Witness until her death.
President Eisenhower and the Influence of the Jehovah's Witnesses.pdf
By The Librarian
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (pronounced /ˈaɪzənhaʊər/, eye-zən-how-ər; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO. He was the last U.S. President to have been born in the 19th century.
Eisenhower was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry and was raised in a large family in Kansas by parents with a strong religious background. He attended and graduated from West Point and later married and had two sons. After World War II, Eisenhower served as Army Chief of Staff under President Harry S. Truman then assumed the post of President at Columbia University.
Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race as a Republican to counter the non-interventionism of Senator Robert A. Taft and to crusade against "Communism, Korea and corruption". He won by a landslide, defeating Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson and ending two decades of the New Deal Coalition. In the first year of his presidency, Eisenhower deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and used nuclear threats to conclude the Korean War with China. His New Look policy of nuclear deterrence gave priority to inexpensive nuclear weapons while reducing the funding for conventional military forces; the goal was to keep pressure on the Soviet Union and reduce federal deficits. In 1954, Eisenhower first articulated the domino theory in his description of the threat presented to United States' global economic and military hegemony by the spread of communism and anti-colonial movements in the wake of Communist victory in the First Indochina War. The Congress agreed to his request in 1955 for the Formosa Resolution, which obliged the U.S. to militarily support the pro-Western Republic of China in Taiwan and take a hostile position against the People's Republic of China on the Chinese mainland. After the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, Eisenhower authorized the establishment of NASA which led to a "space race". Eisenhower forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956. In 1958, he sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution. Near the end of his term, his efforts to set up a summit meeting with the Soviets collapsed because of the U-2 incident. In his 1961 farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower expressed his concerns about future dangers of massive military spending, especially deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers, and coined the term "military–industrial complex".
On the domestic front, he covertly opposed Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege. He otherwise left most political activity to his Vice President, Richard Nixon. He was a moderate conservative who continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.
Among his enduring innovations, he launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.
In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. Eisenhower's two terms were peaceful ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59. Eisenhower has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
Early Life and Education
The Eisenhauer (German for "iron hewer/miner") family migrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, to North America, first settling in York, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and in the 1880s moving to Kansas. Accounts vary as to how and when the German name Eisenhauer was anglicized to Eisenhower. Eisenhower's Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors, who were primarily farmers, included Hans Nikolaus Eisenhauer of Karlsbrunn, who migrated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1741.
Hans's great-great-grandson, David Jacob Eisenhower (1863–1942), was Dwight's father and was a college-educated engineer, despite his own father Jacob's urging to stay on the family farm. Eisenhower's mother, Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , born in Virginia, of German Lutheran ancestry, moved to Kansas from Virginia. She married David on September 23, 1885, in Lecompton, Kansas, on the campus of their alma mater, Lane University.
David owned a general store in Hope, Kansas, but the business failed due to economic conditions and the family became impoverished. The Eisenhowers then lived in Texas from 1889 until 1892, and later returned to Kansas, with $24 to their name at the time. David worked as a mechanic with a railroad and then with a creamery. By 1898, the parents made a decent living and provided a suitable home for their large family.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called "Ike", such as "Big Ike" (Edgar) and "Little Ike" (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name. By World War II, only Dwight was still called "Ike".
The Eisenhower family home, Abilene, Kansas.
In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, which Eisenhower considered as his home town. As a child, he was involved in an accident that cost his younger brother an eye; he later referred to this as an experience teaching him the need to be protective of those under him. Dwight developed a keen and enduring interest in exploring outdoors, hunting/fishing, cooking and card playing from an illiterate named Bob Davis who camped on the Smoky Hill River.
While Eisenhower's mother was against war, it was her collection of history books that first sparked Eisenhower's early and lasting interest in military history. He persisted in reading the books in her collection and became a voracious reader in the subject. Other favorite subjects early in his education were arithmetic and spelling.
His parents set aside specific times at breakfast and at dinner for daily family Bible reading. Chores were regularly assigned and rotated among all the children, and misbehavior was met with unequivocal discipline, usually from David. The Eisenhowers were River Brethren, a branch of Mennonites known now as the Brethren in Christ. They believed in nonviolence. When Dwight Eisenhower was a boy, his parents joined the International Bible Students Association, later known as Jehovah's Witnesses. The Eisenhower home served as the local meeting hall from 1896 to 1915, though Eisenhower never joined the International Bible Students. His later decision to attend West Point saddened his mother, who felt that warfare was "rather wicked," but she did not overrule him. Dwight Eisenhower would write in his book, “At Ease, Stories I Tell to Friends,” about his mother and his decision to enter the military academy.“She saw me off, and then went back home to her room. Milton (his brother) told me later that for the first time in his life he heard Mother cry.”
While speaking of himself in 1948, Eisenhower said he was "one of the most deeply religious men I know" though unattached to any "sect or organization". He was baptized in the Presbyterian Church in 1953.
Eisenhower attended Abilene High School and graduated with the class of 1909. As a freshman, he injured his knee and developed a leg infection which extended into his groin and which his doctor diagnosed as life-threatening. The doctor insisted that the leg be amputated but Dwight refused to allow it, and miraculously recovered, though he had to repeat his freshman year. He and brother Edgar both wanted to attend college, though they lacked the funds. They made a pact to take alternate years at college while the other worked, in order to earn the tuitions.
Edgar took the first turn at school, and Dwight was employed as a night supervisor at the Belle Springs Creamery. Edgar asked for a second year, Dwight consented and worked for a second year. At that time, a friend "Swede" Hazlet was applying to the Naval Academy and urged Dwight to apply to the school, since no tuition was required. Eisenhower requested consideration for either Annapolis or West Point with his U.S. Senator, Joseph L. Bristow. Though Eisenhower was among the winners of the entrance-exam competition, he was beyond the age limit for the Naval Academy. He then accepted an appointment to West Point in 1911.
At West Point, Eisenhower relished the emphasis on traditions and on sports, but was less enthusiastic about the hazing, though he willingly accepted it as a plebe. He was also a regular violator of the more detailed regulations, and finished school with a less than stellar discipline rating. Academically, Eisenhower's best subject by far was English. Otherwise, his performance was average, though he thoroughly enjoyed the typical emphasis of engineering on science and mathematics.
In athletics, Eisenhower later said that "not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest." He did make the football team, and was a varsity starter as running back and linebacker in 1912, tackling the legendary Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians that year. Eisenhower suffered a torn knee in that, his last, game; he re-injured his knee on horseback and in the boxing ring, so he turned to fencing and gymnastics.
Eisenhower later served as junior varsity football coach and cheerleader. At West Point he played football. He graduated in the middle of the class of 1915, which became known as "the class the stars fell on", because 59 members eventually became general officers.
Eisenhower met and fell in love with Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, Iowa, six years his junior, while he was stationed in Texas. He and her family were also immediately taken with one another. He proposed to her on Valentine's Day in 1916. A November wedding date in Denver was moved up to July 1 due to the pending U.S. entry into World War I. In their first 35 years of marriage, they moved many times.
The Eisenhowers had two sons. Doud Dwight "Icky" Eisenhower was born September 24, 1917, and died of scarlet fever on January 2, 1921, at the age of three; Eisenhower was mostly reticent to discuss his death. Their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born on August 3, 1922, while they were in Panama. John served in the United States Army, retired as a brigadier general, became an author and served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971. John, coincidentally, graduated from West Point on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He married Barbara Jean Thompson on June 10, 1947. John and Barbara had four children: Dwight David II "David", Barbara Ann, Susan Elaine and Mary Jean. David, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968. John died on December 21, 2013.
Eisenhower was a golf enthusiast later in life, and joined the Augusta National Golf Club in 1948. He played golf frequently during and after his presidency and was unreserved in expressing his passion for the game, to the point of golfing during winter, and ordered his golf balls painted black so he could see them better against snow on the ground. He had a small, basic golf facility installed at Camp David, and became close friends with the Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts, inviting Roberts to stay at the White House on several occasions; Roberts, an investment broker, also handled the Eisenhower family's investments. Roberts also advised Eisenhower on tax aspects of publishing his memoirs, which proved to be financially lucrative.
After golf, oil painting was Eisenhower's second hobby. While at Columbia University, Eisenhower began the art after watching Thomas E. Stephens paint Mamie's portrait. Ike painted about 260 oils during the last 20 years of his life to relax, mostly landscapes but also portraits of subjects such as Mamie, their grandchildren, General Montgomery, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Wendy Beckett stated that Eisenhower's work, "simple and earnest, rather cause us to wonder at the hidden depths of this reticent president". A conservative in both art and politics, he in a 1962 speech denounced modern art as "a piece of canvas that looks like a broken-down Tin Lizzie, loaded with paint, has been driven over it."
Angels in the Outfield was Eisenhower's favorite movie. His favorite reading material for relaxation were the Western novels of Zane Grey. With his excellent memory and ability to focus, Eisenhower was skilled at card games. He learned poker, which he called his "favorite indoor sport", in Abilene. Eisenhower recorded West Point classmates' poker losses for payment after graduation, and later stopped playing because his opponents resented having to pay him. A classmate reported that after learning to play contract bridge at West Point, Eisenhower played the game six nights a week for five months.
Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. . (Subsequently updated from other sources)
President Dwight Eisenhower´s Religion
In religion, as in so much else, Ike was far more sophisticated than commonly realized. Often, America’s religious life in the 1950s is dismissed as sterile and conventional. Supposedly President Dwight Eisenhower typified generic, superficial religion with his oft quoted quip: “Our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” The quote actually came from Eisenhower in 1952 after meeting his WWII fellow commander, Soviet Marshal Grigori Zhukov. Ike was explaining to reporters how America’s creed of equality was based on the “Judeo-Christian concept,” contrasting with the Soviet understanding of religion as the “opiate of the people.” Eisenhower was not describing his own personal theology. Grandson David Eisenhower’s Going Home to Glory, a new memoir of his grandfather’s retirement years, helps to clarify the record. (For a review, go here.) In religion, as in so much else, Ike was far more sophisticated than commonly realized. When still a young man in the 1970s, as part of research for the book published 35 years later, David Eisenhower interviewed the clergy who knew his grandfather well, including Billy Graham. David’s remembrance is not chiefly about religion, of course. But the book’s title captures its underlying theme of an aging solider and statesman who is preparing to go “home to glory.” Ike’s mother was the devotee of the River Brethren, an Anabaptist sect, and she trained her sons extensively to memorize Scripture. Much later she joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. For much of his adult life, though not irreverent, Ike had not belonged to a church, sometimes attending liberal Mainline Protestant congregations that he complained focused more on politics. Upon his 1952 election to the presidency, the former general resolved to become a church member. Joining a pacifist, separatist sect from his childhood was unlikely for the nation’s chief magistrate and commander in chief. Billy Graham steered Eisenhower to National Presbyterian Church, whose pastor had been a World War II military chaplain. Perhaps Graham also surmised that orderly Presbyterianism would appeal to the organizer of D-Day. And Mamie Eisenhower had been Presbyterian. National Presbyterian Church was then in a stately downtown sanctuary just south of Washington’s Dupont Circle, only a brief drive north of the White House. Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson, among other presidents, had attended the congregation. J. Edgar Hoover was a member. It offered the perfect dignified stage for a President’s attendance. But Eisenhower, who was far more complex than the avuncular golfer often imagined by friends and critics, was interested in more than show. Reputedly the Rev. Edward Elson explained to the new President that all new church members had to be catechized in a membership class. Eisenhower’s schedule would not allow attendance. But he invited Elson to instruct him one-on-one at the White House in the ways of Presbyterianism, which Elson supposedly did. Ike was the first and only sitting president to be baptized while in office. Eisenhower composed his own prayer that he read at his first inaugural. And he also invited cabinet members to open cabinet meetings with prayer. Urbane sophisticates, then and now, mocked this supposedly pitiable bourgeois exercise in civil religion. But like other American statesmen, Ike probably intuited that Judeo-Christian civil religion was a unifying moral force that was infinitely preferable to most of its likely alternatives. Ike took his churchgoing seriously and sometimes had Rev. Elson over to the White House to explain his sermons. David Eisenhower recites in his book how one sermon, “The Love of Christ Controlleth All Men,” provoked the President into pondering the impact of his golf course rages. Amusingly, Eisenhower once hosted the Methodist Council of Bishops at the White House but kept the meeting very brief so as not to delay his golf holiday. The bishops could hear the departing helicopter even before they left the grounds. After retirement, the Eisenhowers became active at Gettysburg’s Presbyterian congregation, whose young pastor, the Rev. James MacAskill, Ike especially appreciated. Young David as a teenager even found the minister “spellbinding.” Having a former president in MacAskill’s flock attracted offers of larger churches with greater salaries. Unwilling to see him leave, Ike intervened to ensure a higher salary for the minister. In turn, MacAskill was impressed with Eisenhower’s own depth of religious faith and his immunity to passing fads. Reputed to have cited his appointment of Earl Warren as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice as one of his greatest errors, Eisenhower disapproved of the 1963 court ruling banning Bible readings from public schools. Ike saw religion as a crucial moral force, particularly for civil rights. He had been the first president to sign civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, and he supported the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. As David Eisenhower writes, his grandfather thought the “Warren Court’s bias against the church undermined its promotion of equal rights because sociology was no substitute for moral teaching.” In that ruling’s wake, Ike delivered a sermon at his Gettysburg church. “I do not see how any Supreme Court in the world can declare teachings in this vein illegal,” Ike preached. “There is no reason for Americans to raise their children in a communist type school that denies the existence of a God.” He noted that the “theory of the equality of man is religious in origin.” And he observed: “To raise our children in a moral atmosphere is to recognize the existence of a Supreme Overlord.” Five years later, Eisenhower was confined to Walter Reed Medical Center for his life’s remaining months. One of the last visitors he summoned was Billy Graham, whom he asked to recite the plan of salvation Graham had first shared to him 14 years earlier. Graham did so, to which Ike responded, “I’m ready.” Ike’s deep but non-dogmatically articulated faith, reinforced by his active churchmanship, was reassuring and unifying for America before the social revolutions and culture wars of later decades. No president since has quite been able to repeat the feat. Eisenhower’s religious beliefs and practices may have seemed conventional, but they were deeply felt, and effectively served the nation.
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President Eisenhower and Jehovah's Witnesses Abilene Congregation - Records and Related Materials - PDF
JW ABILENE CONGREGATION - Records and Related Materials, 1912-1943.pdf
President Eisenhower and the Influence of the Jehovah's Witnesses.pdf
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