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My Testimony to Congress on “The Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial”

March 20, 2012

The following testimony was given by Susan Eisenhower before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources at a hearing titled “The Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial” on March 20, 2012: 

The U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members:

I would like to thank you, on behalf of the Eisenhower family, for convening this hearing on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Such hearings play a vital role in the memorialization process, and we thank you for your leadership in addressing the public interest.

While some people may see little value in holding Congressional hearings on the current memorial design, all of us will benefit from a candid exchange of views. We, as a family, are committed to seeing that the building of a memorial to Dwight Eisenhower is done in an open, democratic and transparent way. This is what Ike would have wanted. He believed that public engagement and support is a crucial element in assuring any successful process and in meeting any collective objective.

Let me also say that my family is most grateful to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, the General Services Administration and the National Park Service—as well as Mr. Frank Gehry, for the efforts they have made in bringing the memorial to this stage.

Mr. Chairman, on June 12, 1945, Dwight Eisenhower stood on the balcony of London’s Guildhall, where he was to receive the Freedom of the City of London. Europe lay in ruins. More than 15 million people in the Western part of continent had perished, not counting the 25 million Soviets who died on the Eastern Front. Eisenhower, who had victoriously commanded the largest military operation in the history of warfare, stood before millions of cheering Londoners. He spoke of the war and the collective effort to defeat Nazism.  Without notes, Eisenhower began his speech. “Humility,” he said, “must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

These simple words, crafted without the help of a speech writer, offer a guide for capturing the essence of World War II’s Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces, Europe and later our nation’s two-term president.

Eisenhower was born in the era of the horse and buggy. He ushered in the space age. Though his life straddled these two different periods in technological achievement and national life, he was a man who revered tradition and was grounded in the classics. Eisenhower had the capacity to inspire people of differing viewpoints to forge a common purpose, even in the most fractious, complex and perilous circumstances. It is these qualities, in the context of his achievements, which we hope will be memorialized.

The Eisenhower family has two major concerns about the development of the Eisenhower Memorial at this particular point. One is the proposed design and concept and the other is the process that has brought us to this place. In both cases we see no alternative but to ask for strong remedies.

We propose that the Eisenhower Memorial be redesigned and we call on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to undergo a top down review of its staff management practices, with the goal of streamlining its operations, reviewing its stakeholder policies, and reengaging in a meaningful way with the Eisenhower Legacy organizations, many of which were founded by Dwight Eisenhower himself.

A Monumental Imperative

We have been heartened by the robust public debate on how best to remember Dwight Eisenhower. Stories have appeared in newspapers from our country’s largest cities to some of our smallest towns, and all across the internet. Since an active public debate began at the end of last year, comments from the public and the pundits have made wide-ranging points.  Many of them have underscored what we have always known: great monuments in our country make simple statements that encapsulate the reason the memorial has been erected. George Washington is remembered as “the Father of our Country;” The Lincoln Memorial declares that “He saved the Union;” the monument to Christopher Columbus in front of Union Station says: “[He] gave to mankind a new world.”

One of the main flaws of the current proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial is that Eisenhower’s contribution to this nation is not the central theme of the design. The narrative is muddled and never really gives us the “bottom line” phrase that articulates his contribution to the nation.

The current design calls for eighty-foot metal curtains to be suspended from columns of the same height, scattered on a four-acre site. These are approximately eight stories high, or the size of a typical office building. The metal curtains are designed to create a new kind of public square. Originally the metal scrims were to depict images of Eisenhower in his lifetime, but, on the request of the approval authorities, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and Gehry and Associates were asked to find something “more artistic.”

The current design now depicts a Kansas landscape.  In the shadow of this three-sided enclosure, a young life-size Eisenhower—his age is now currently under discussion—would be sculpted. Atop a stone ledge he is to sit “dreaming” of his future roles as Supreme Allied Commander and two-term president. Two well-known photographs would illustrate Eisenhower’s accomplishments in bas-relief.

Proponents of the young Eisenhower believe that children will be inspired by seeing themselves in the design-element’s young Eisenhower. I wonder about this premise. Children are not impressed by children. They want to be superheroes. Perhaps that is why a visit to the Lincoln Memorial in one’s youth remains a memory.  The Lincoln Memorial is awe-inspiring.

Despite the fact that recently released EMC documents show the bas reliefs as “monumental,” the metal curtains dominate and define the space. They set Eisenhower’s life in the context of his upbringing, not in the context in which he lead this country against fascism and communism—movements that posed existential threats to this country and our allies.

The Horatio Alger-like narrative that Eisenhower grew up to “make good” is a slight on the countless millions of people, during World War II and the Cold War, whose very existence was directly affected by Eisenhower’s decisions. Menachem Rosensaft, Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, wrote me of this: “I grew up revering first General then President Eisenhower as the commander of the liberating armies that enabled my parents to live.”

Eisenhower’s professional assignments carried none of the romantic notion that is embodied in the current memorial concept and design. He was the person tapped to end the horrors of a Nazi-occupied Europe and later to lead the United States and her allies to halt communist aggression and avoid nuclear Armageddon. The man we celebrate is not a dreamy boy, but a real man who faced unthinkable choices, took personal responsibility and did his duty–with modesty and humanity.

The debate on this memorial has produced a groundswell of support for the idea of an Eisenhower Memorial but, at the same, it has expressed overwhelming opposition to the proposed concept and design.  What has been seen in the newspapers and online is only piece of it. My family has been inundated with expressions of support for a reconceptualization of the memorial and a redesign of its elements.

So where do we go from here?

The task is to articulate Eisenhower’s leadership and courage to future generations, and symbolically express his contribution to this nation. Exciting ideas have been suggested by many.

Aviva Kempner, a film producer and Washingtonian whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, wrote me: “For us, Ike was the leader of the free world against tyranny. That is always how we will remember him and honor him…General Eisenhower was a revered name in our home and not a boy walking in the rye.”

A Washington resident, born and raised in Great Britain, also wrote me, wondering how Eisenhower’s background could be the theme of this memorial: “When I think of my own father flying scores of missions in WWII as a British bomber pilot, the sacrifice of countless Americans, the millions of Russians and Jews who died, etc…we should be memorializing what Eisenhower THE MAN did to overcome the horror of that time…”

“Liberator,” an African-American colleague suggested, while reflecting not just on the war but on the desegregation of Washington, DC and the armed forces—both early Eisenhower administration accomplishments. “Champion of Peace and Prosperity,” a New Yorker wrote. As president, Eisenhower managed to pay down America’s enormous WWII debt and balance the budget three times in eight years. He left his successor with a budget surplus, while modernizing America for the future.

The Challenge

Getting the conceptual narrative right is hard enough, but symbolism plays an equally vital non-verbal role. In this case, the design is on even shakier ground. We’ve heard from many people who object to the symbolism the metal curtains represent.

Billboards: My sister, Anne, and I enjoyed our one-on-one time with “Granddad,” as we called Ike. Both of us recall that on completely separate occasions Granddad told us that he “hated billboards.” This inevitably occurred as one of us would be driving with him in the area around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where our grandparents lived in retirement. Billboards advertised tourist venues but, in his view, they marred the beauty of the landscape and cheapened that hallowed ground.

Modern Tapestries: The design team at Gehry and Associates and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has made a habit of referring to the metal curtains as “tapestries,” referencing the tradition to place great people and events on woven material. This may be true of the Middle Ages, but noteworthy modern tapestries are those in the Communist world. Tapestries honoring Marx, Engels and Lenin used to hang in Red Square; Mao Zedong could be found in Tiananmen Square; and Ho Chi Minh’s tapestry hung from public buildings in Hanoi—to name a few.

Iron Curtain: Other critics have noted that we will be putting up an “Iron Curtain to Ike.” Given this symbolism, could the proposed cylindrical columns also be misconstrued as symbols of missile silos?

Fencing: Unfortunately, in the geo-political context, “fencing” has always had negative connotations. Not long after the debate on the Eisenhower Memorial began, a woman whose mother had survived Auschwitz approached me. She begged me to continue our efforts to get the memorial redesigned. Her mother, she told me, said the metal mesh scrims reminded her of the chain link fences in “the camps.” Three other people also contacted me with concerns about the same symbolic message.

An Unnecessary Divide: The proposed metal curtains are to provide a screen that would obscure the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building. This is a symbolic affront to one of Eisenhower’s contemporaries and the Majority Leader of the Senate during the Eisenhower presidency.

My family and I do not believe for a moment that the design team envisioned that these metal scrims would evoke such reactions, nor do we think it was intentional. The potential for an unfortunate interpretation or association, however, has been established. Context does matter, and it took this vital public debate to see the pejorative symbolism that some Americans could see, from the outset, in the design.

Not the Memorial at All? Once the metal curtains became a controversy, the Eisenhower Memorial staff said in the national media that the so-called “tapestries” were “not the memorial”—only the backdrop. Since these metal scrims are symbolically inappropriate and since they also constitute the biggest expense—not to mention the greatest cost of future maintenance—we believe this is another reason why they should be eliminated as a design element.

Even if all the symbolic issues could be mitigated, these metal scrims are more suitable for a temporary exhibition than they are for a memorial that must last in perpetuity.  Sustainability is a central goal in nearly every other avenue of modern life today—why shouldn’t a memorial for the 21st century reflect this? The last few decades of limitless excess are over. Our 21st century challenge is to find simpler more elegant ways to express ourselves.

It is easy to imagine that eighty-foot metal mesh curtains would require constant maintenance. Any high wind would assure that everything from leaves to trash could easily get caught in the metal gaps. It is hard to imagine that the National Park Service would be equipped to handle the constant cleaning, especially at the higher reaches of the scrims.

Current plans for interactive technology are also unlikely to remain current. We continue to live in a time of technological revolution. Why make this story telling aspect of the memorial redundant before it has even been installed? There are other ways to tell the story of Eisenhower’s life and times—a number of Eisenhower Legacy organizations, most specifically the Eisenhower Foundation that is associated with the Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, do an excellent job of this.

In sum, these factors have had a significant impact on the thinking of many people, including my family. A redesign should be sensitive to the context of Eisenhower’s times and avoid any elements that could be misconstrued as an Iron Curtain, concentration camp chain-link fences, or any other negative imagery from those turbulent and dangerous times. Any new design should also make sustainability one of its central goals.

Process is critical

The Eisenhower family has interacted with the Eisenhower Memorial Commission since its inception in 1999. My brother David Eisenhower was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the family representative on it. My other siblings, Anne and Mary, and I attended many meetings as interested parties, as well as conduits for our father John Eisenhower’s views. He is Dwight Eisenhower’s sole heir and executor of his will. I attach his letter for the record.

From the Commission’s earliest days we have been concerned about its direction and we have spoken about it forthrightly. In the beginning, the memorial was planned to be both a physical memorial and a living memorial, which was to tell the Eisenhower story and to enhance the educational and leadership development mission of a number of Eisenhower Legacy organizations. The E-Memorial, which was created by the Commission, sidestepped the most important of the Eisenhower Legacy organizations, located in such states as Pennsylvania, New York and Kansas. The result has been a deterioration of the Commission staff’s relationships with the Eisenhower Legacy organizations that are the largest and oldest in the community. While there have been recent attempts to heal the breach, much work remains to be done.

The Eisenhower family’s relationship with the Commission staff is also more strained today than ever before—in large measure because of the decisions the staff made in this current debate.  Unfortunately, they have persisted in suggesting that the Eisenhower family is not united on the Eisenhower Memorial design. I have tried to set the record straight numerous times on my website: www.susaneisenhower.com, but they have continued to assert otherwise. The following, then, is hereby entered for the record. My brother David has submitted a statement to, once and for all, settle the question:

I served on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission from its inception until December of 2011 in the de-facto role of representing the Eisenhower family on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and as a regular Presidential appointee whose responsibility was to work with his fellow commissioners to ensure that the memorialization process moved forward.

During the selection process for an architect, a number of “jurors” including myself supported another architectural firm and did not vote to select Mr. Gehry as the architect. Once the Gehry firm was chosen, however, I supported efforts to assure that a memorial be built. During my tenure, the commissioners were always assured that the designs were evolving, and that there was plenty of time for consultation.

Recently, when Mr. Gehry was told that he could not use the Eisenhower images on the metal scrims, I generally supported the idea of a Kansas landscape. However, I did not know the details of how the “barefoot boy” theme was developing and I recognized the need to be in full consultation with the rest of my family.  Since the July 2011 Commission meeting, when a final vote on the design was deferred, we as a family have discussed the design and the concept extensively. I am in full support of the family’s decision to share our concerns with the public, and I endorse the family’s efforts to gain a thorough review of the currently proposed design, including a redesign. – David Eisenhower, March 18, 2012, Berwyn, PA

When members of the Eisenhower family first saw the proposal to place Kansas on the metal curtains with a focus on Ike as a young boy, we had varying responses. But as the spring of 2011 turned into the summer, small differences over how to proceed turned into a unified sense of urgency to get the concept and design changed.

From the outset of this memorialization process, my family has repeatedly expressed its desire to see something simple and in keeping with Eisenhower’s character and values. In addition, we argued for a process that would accommodate a competition from a range of architects specializing in different genres.

When it was clear that the architectural firm, Skidmore, Ownings and Merrill, which is known for its modernistic approach, was chosen to develop the Pre-Design Architectural Program, we understood that the Commission was going to handle these matters in an entirely different way.

We intervened behind the scenes when we discovered that the review process was being “fast-tracked.” This was a surprise to us in light of the fact that the July 2011 Commission meeting ended without a formal vote on the design concept. Chairman Siciliano declared that the memorial concept and design were still evolving. (To our knowledge this was the last full Commission meeting that has been held.) Despite our concerns that the memorial design was being pushed through the review process, we were told only that they would keep us informed. As a result we issued a statement in November 2011, expressing our concerns about the “size, scale and scope” of the memorial proposal.

Today’s hearing, and possibly others in the future, gives us an opportunity to think again about how best to memorialize Dwight Eisenhower. There should be some specific conditions, however. The Eisenhower family will adamantly oppose any groundbreaking for this memorial that occurs before it is absolutely clear that the financing for the project is in place.

Given the controversy surrounding the design and given the amount of private money that needs to be raised, we believe this current plan cannot be successfully funded. Unless a new concept and design are developed, this process could languish amid increasing contention. The public has spoken. It is time to go back to the drawing board.

As we move forward, why not find new ways to gain from the wisdom of the American people and the “buy in” from countless people who have expressed an interest in finding a fitting memorial to Eisenhower?

Conclusion

The Eisenhower family is indebted to Congress for designating that an Eisenhower Memorial be built. The family is committed to playing its role in assuring that the process and the design reflect an open and transparent process that Ike believed was critical to the sound functioning of our democracy. If Eisenhower was great it was not just because of what he did, but also because of how he did it. Just as the memorial must reflect the values and principles of its subject, the process must emulate the man for whom the memorial is being built.

Going forward, there needs to be a much more open response to stakeholder input. Stakeholders are not just members of the Eisenhower family, military veterans, survivors of the Holocaust and their families, Cold War refugees or people connected to the Eisenhower Administration, and Eisenhower Legacy organizations–or even residents of Ike’s home state—as important as we are.  The most important stakeholders of all are the American people, especially rising generations who will be the future of this country.

It took well more than three designs to produce the FDR Memorial we have today. We should not be afraid of getting this right. In rethinking the memorial we now have an opportunity to find new ways to inspire visitors who will come to this place. Eisenhower led the free world when America became the world’s greatest superpower. He brought the country through some of the most dangerous chapters of the 20th century.

“Eisenhower’s talents,” wrote Jonathan Tobin in Commentary, “were exactly what both our republic and the world needed at a moment when everything hung in the balance…”

The Eisenhower Memorial can and should be a reflection, not only of Eisenhower’s lifetime achievements, and the challenging and dangerous times in which he led us; it should also be anthem to our national purpose. As General Eisenhower said in his Guildhall address—the wartime victory was a common one. And he carried that humility to the White House. The peace and prosperity of the Eisenhower years were also America’s success.

The Eisenhower Memorial we leave will express not just of our esteem for his leadership, but it will reflect who we are as a people—and what part of this legacy we want to leave for future generations.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. Tony TenBarge permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:47 pm

    Susan,
    Very well said Ike is a hero to many of us and deserving a “superhero” monument . Ike’s status as one of my 20th Century heros is the reason I am involved with Ike legacy organizations.

    Tony Ten Barge
    Vice President
    Dwight D. Eisenhower Society

  2. Stan and Sharon Watson permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:50 pm

    Keep it simple on the scale of Lincoln or Roosevelt. Lincoln had the Civil War … Eisenhower had WWII and then Presidentcy during the early days of renewed civil rights almost a contradiction in terms and fighting the early days of the cold war. Please keep us informed and do not make haste. He deserves “top shelf” treatment. The road is long that has no bend. But if you have no destination then any road will get you there. Eisenhower always had a well defined and simple destination

  3. Robert Hanfling permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:54 pm

    How could an Eisenhower memorial leave out his “Atoms for Peace” program? This was a creative, noble gesture to spread the benefits of nuclear isotopes for medicene, nuclear power for energy and nuclear R&D for the general education and spread of knowledge. For this, and many other policies, this general was a man of peace and international cooperation.
    I would also rate the Inter-State highway system,conceived for military transportation, as the vital artieries for the expansion of the United States and uits prosperity; all with NO billboards.
    It was the Atoms for Peace program that inspired me to pursue a career in nulcear engineering.
    com

  4. CMSgt (ret) Terry D. Rosta permalink
    March 20, 2012 2:22 pm

    I envision a memorial to Ike similar to the FDR memorial; simple yet effective, charting Ikes course through history. Ike trod many paths, wore many uniforms, and inspired so many citizens of the world. I applaud your efforts, and can only hope and pray for reason and clarity as the debate moves forward.

    Thank you

  5. March 20, 2012 2:35 pm

    Deliver us from architects who seem to feel that being commissioned for such a project as Ike’s memorial is first an opportunity for them to make their own mark with something avant guardly ‘unique’, and only secondarily to accurately present the mark made by the exceptional citizen they’re supposed to be honoring.

    I have no dispespect for Frank Gehry, apparently a born Canadian who never wore a military uniform, but, as a Vietnam veteran myself and as Ike was perhaps America’s greatest soldier among his other achievements, I wonder what’s wrong with putting forth a nationwide contest among veterans for the most appropriate design for Ike’s memorial. Surely many vets are now exceptional architects in their own rights but the best design might well come from a possibly obscure soldier who also served his country in harm’s way and can relate to Ike as I can. I strongly suspect that’s what Ike would have preferred.

    You’re fighting the good fight, Susan. Keep up the good work.

    – Bill Slusher
    williamslusher-writer.com

  6. vh1422 permalink
    March 20, 2012 4:56 pm

    I see the memorial incorporating two quotes: the first is the one Ike made at the end of the war in London that you quoted in your superb presentation today; and the other, is his famous warning in his Farewell Address about the military/industrial complex. These two quotes eloquently present him as he would have liked: as a soldier – though he was supreme commander – and as a public servant – though he was president. In this duality, he has only one equal in American History and that is George Washington – who also shared Ike’s humility. The appropriate design should be an artful and inspiring blend of these two sides of Ike. It is a passing phenomenon in our nation’s leadership and we need to be reminded of what we have lost. Victoria Harris

  7. Carlotta Walls LaNier permalink
    March 20, 2012 6:11 pm

    Very well stated. I only hope the family concerns were heard. The Memorial should represent what he stood for. A steel curtain reminds me of the iron curtain and does not start the conversation of what General, later President Eisenhower, was about. He also was the President at the time of the most riveting domestic crisis this country had seen…integrating Little Rock Central High School in 1957. HE signed the Executive Order to send the 101st Airborn to protect and escort the Little Rock Nine to school.

  8. March 20, 2012 6:25 pm

    Agreed with Victoria, above, but with one caveat. What is almost always left out of references to Ike’s popular ‘military industrial complex speech’ (usually by academics who wish to cherry-pick the speech for anti-military or anti-capitalist political reasons) is that Ike’s mention thereof was but one of two equally weighted warnings in that speech. Of the military industrial complex, Ike also said that “… we recognize the imperative need for this development ” and that “Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction”. ‘Imperative need’ and ‘mighty’ leave precious little room for confusion about what Ike was saying but those statements are usually cut, thus significantly altering the perspective in which Ike spoke them.

    In that same speech, Ike then voiced a second warning of “an equal and opposite danger”, that of allowing public policy to become “captive of a scientifictechnological elite”, which is surely where we’ve come today. There can be no more graphic example than academia’s clubby overreaction and egregious government policy influence in the name of still vaguely defined threats of global warming. Far from an enlightened time when academia welcomed challenge to its theories it has now deteriorated into myopic, self-impressed, politically stratified cliques who defend their pet theories with medieval kneejerk condemnation of credentialed skeptics (as ‘flat-earthers’ or ‘holocaust denier mentalities’, etc.) instead of with deeper scholarly research and evidence.

    May all of Ike’s remarks be presented on all forums only in their appropriate perspectives.

    – Bill Slusher
    williamslusher-writer.com

  9. March 20, 2012 8:12 pm

    No one has said what needs to be said: The design of the Memorial is UGLY & REPULSIVE to anyone who appreciates fine Architecture. I feel that the design is totally outside the realm of what Eisenhower would have desired. I believe he would be HORRIFIED to see himself remembered with that 80 foot steel mesh fence, the silo like columns and a sculpture of himself as a boy or teenager. I agree that a totally new design needs to be selected; this one is offensive. Benjamin Latrobe

  10. March 20, 2012 10:59 pm

    Dear Susan,

    Great testimony before Congress! Your grandfather deserves a memorial worthy of his great leadership in peacetime and in war. He was, as you said, a very humble man. Even as he vigorously prosecuted the Cold War, he hoped for improved relations with the Soviet Union. An opportunity for détente seemed to follow the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953 and he engaged the new Soviet leaders to begin the process which ultimately led to the end of the Cold War. Keep up the good fight and find a great memorial that is fitting for a great President, even it means changing the architect.

    Best Regards,
    Dr. Gerard Janco
    President, The Eurasia Center

  11. Mark Savage permalink
    March 21, 2012 2:25 am

    I think you’re missing a great opportunity. Think of all the monuments in all the dusty parks of a man on a horse and a plaque saying “hero of the Spanish American war” or some such. It must have been meaningful once, but time passes, stories get simplified or forgotten, and the emotion gets drained right out of them. A man on a horse with a sword just sits and gathers dust.
    Already, The Second World War is fading. Its not central to our national consciousness anymore, and I don’t think making his legacy “he won the war” will do him any favors. The emotional content will fade and he’ll be another man on a horse.
    When I read the article in the wp, I learned for the first time where he was born and how high he rose. How astounding! That to me is the story of America: that we’re all free and equal and can rise as far as our abilities can take us. That story is one that won’t fade, and will give his monument a purpose in our culture. It’ll Rebrand him, as it were, as the best example of the American dream. I think you should stake out this mythical place for him if you want him to endure as a symbol.
    Another thing I thought as I read that article is how the monument will be used. Maya linn’s vietnam memorial became a success when pictures appeared of vets and their families using the monument, crying and tracing names. It didn’t matter what the monument looked like when we saw the feelings it caused.
    The story of Ike isn’t a tragedy, like the story of Lincoln or the vietnam war. it’s a happy story, so who better to use the monument than children. Once pictures start appearing of children at the monument, smiling, laughing, looking solemn and saluting him, its success will be assured. Parents will take kids, and they’ll take their kids to recapture the happy memory.
    Ike was such an honest, happy guy, and his values so perfect, I can think of no other president who should have that place.
    On an artistic note, I think Frank Gehry was a good choice, he has proven himself as revolutionary AND tasteful. The world is waiting to see what he does next and see how he mutates his signature style to suit the job. I trust that he wants to do right by Ike, and believe in his talent. he will be relevant for centuries to come. Really.
    Lastly, I hope, I pray that this isn’t a case of mistrusting Gehry or the committee because they are too “democratic,” or “lefty,” or “avant garde.” please don’t let them twist your words until it sounds like you’re accusing him of sabotage or elitist snobbism. Please go in with patience and an open heart. The country needs to see adults from two sides of the aisle settling things amicably. It used to happen that way in Ike’s time.

  12. Karen Jorde permalink
    March 21, 2012 4:19 am

    It may take several design proposals, but I applaud your insistence that ultimately the memorial is “done right the first time.” I hope and agree with CMSgt (ret) Terry D. Rosta that you will achieve a simple, but effective concept that conveys your grandfather as a whole person with multiple achievements, but most of all the selfless courage it took to be willing to share “victories” with many, but shoulder the prospect of defeat alone. One of my fondest memories is the day my parents and I visited the FDR Memorial. I hope when this memorial is completed it will have the same powerful ability to draw people back in to their own experiences as Veterans who served under his command in WWII and citizens who knew, if nothing else, they could trust his integrity in spite of the Cold War era confusion.

  13. Richard J. Bono permalink
    March 21, 2012 11:26 am

    An eloquent, knowledgeable, and comprehensive response to an absolutely terrible design. A design that is completely inappropriate and deserves to be scrapped in its entirety. The Congress need to begin anew, for a clear and insightful Eisenhower Memorial is very important for the future understanding of Ike’s virtuous achievements and contributions to the people of his country, and the world.

  14. Milos Puaca permalink
    March 21, 2012 11:44 am

    It is perhaps easy to frame such a great man in one aspect.

    President Eisenhower IS the David that brought down the Goliath of evil.
    He witnessed the value of all men and recognized their values and contributions. He encountered the revised push for “States’ Rights” with the federal need for justice and values that need to be shared by all states. He was the last President to be fully resistant to the politics and bureaucrats around him.

    Humility is the ego made aware of what life is really like around it.
    He served in various military roles and prepared for the most difficult assignment any soldier or man could receive. Not only did he face the awful evil of the Nazi Reich, he faced the fury of their incredible war machine. That was the military-industrial complex taken to its limits of greed, power lust, and arrogance. They must, instead, serve the public good and not the political ambitions of anyone.

    What good is the most formidable weapon of the human spirit if not brought to bear against the enemies of man, freedom, and true progress. He not only saw it all, he fought the good fight and lived the good life.

    You can tell so much about a person by their family especially when they can tell you so much about him. Dwight D. Eisenhower was my president, my general, my man to emulate. He was the last true leader.
    Let us remember his achievements in the world in a respectful memorial.

  15. March 21, 2012 12:42 pm

    Mark is unwittingly the best argument possible for why Gehry’s effort should be scrapped. It is precisely the very poisonous notion that Ike (or any great historical figure) should be “rebranded” that is the central flaw in the Gehry offering. Neither we nor ike’s legacy need a “revolutionary” tampering with what Ike was in some new-age “rebranding” attempt.

    Were this not enough reason for a fundamental revamp of the memorial, Mark puts icing on the cake when he admits that “The Second World War is fading” from our “national conciousness”. Woe that day for all Americans.

    No one has suggested that the only two options are a “rebranding” or a “man on a horse.” There are many appropriate options in the realm of reason between.

    Bill Slusher
    williamslusher-writer.com

  16. June Lloyd permalink
    March 21, 2012 1:05 pm

    A metal curtain of those dimensions would only be ephemeral, not a permanent monument, as well as a nightmare of upkeep.
    As far as the focus on the Kansas boyhood, what does that have to do with General/President Eisenhower’s leadership and accomplishments? Some might say his Pennsylvania German roots were also an influence–immigrant ancestor Hans Nicolaus Isenhauer landed in Philadelphia in 1741 and even the president’s father was born in Pennsylvania. His mother, Ida Stover, also had Pennsylvania German roots by way of Virginia. Both upbringing and ancestry may have been influences; however, accomplishments are what should be celebrated.
    Commenters have suggested something akin to the Franklin Roosevelt memorial. Although Roosevelt only wanted the simple, desk-sized marble block that stands by the National Archives, when it was decided to do something more elaborate, the Roosevelt memorial design interprets various aspects of FDR’s life and accomplishments. Prehaps just as importantly, the Roosevelt memorial is made of bronze and stone–a permanent memorial.

  17. KL Swor permalink
    March 21, 2012 2:35 pm

    I would not call FDR memorial simple, but it is a favorite because of era rooms. The Vietnam memorial works because Vietnam was the beginning of “unwinnable wars”. Eisenhower. It should reflect the man and the era. Not Frank Gehry’s architectural metal creations. I am an abstract artist and a modernist, I love FG, but not for Ike. Eisenhower’s legacy is the 50’s. It is not huge metal curtains. For a change, look to the history of what the man did. One other piece, make sure they inscribe the quotes correctly, i.e. King memorial. Look to “The Leaving” in Ireland. Think bronzes, not polished metal. Go to the American History Museum and look to the 1950’s. Yes it can be about now, but don’t put the man’s life in a different era. Wrong on so many levels.

  18. Peter permalink
    March 21, 2012 5:07 pm

    “The public has spoken. It is time to go back to the drawing board…”

    Umm. No, Susan. You — not the public — is throwing a temper tantrum. It’s unbecoming, but at least have the integrity to embrace it as yours.

  19. Michael permalink
    March 22, 2012 2:21 am

    I wish you success in stopping this design. I am afraid it is too late for Sydney in my country, Australia.

    They are already starting Mr Gehry’s anti-architecture building for the University of Technology Sydney.

    Google it and you will see what I mean.

    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/task-is-to-build-gehrys-uts-vision-20120319-1vfs2.html

    The designs that endure over the ages are those that employ the principles of harmony and beauty. That is why, for example, the Greek designs still uplift us to this very day.

  20. G Wenner permalink
    March 22, 2012 3:02 am

    I along with many thousands of other Eisenhower extended family members stand in strong support of the immediate family of U.S President and General Dwight David Eisenhower in their quest to have him correctly portrayed and memorialized for his major accomplishments and contributions to our nation.

    Accurate portrayal of a nation’s leaders is one of the greatest rights that a free, open and educated society expect and demand of its government. We are appreciative and thankful that the family U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower would not settle for anything less.

    Gerry Wenner

  21. March 22, 2012 1:48 pm

    What’s “unbecoming” is the assinine arrogance that suggests someone in Susan’s and her family’s positions do not have a wholly legitimate right – indeed a duty – to ensure that Ike doesn’t get “rebranded” according to inapplicable political correctness or new-age mores.

  22. Mark Savage permalink
    March 22, 2012 6:34 pm

    I can just see Bill Slusher waving his cane at me. “You newfangled, new-age, avant-gardy, whippersnapper! Woe the day for all Americans if you forget my glorious past! ” Please don’t attack me, sir, I’m on your side, really!

    I like Ike!

    I don’t think rebranding is poisonous, or even cynical, it just puts the focus on future generations instead of the past (in my humble opinion). Ike’s legacy (imho) doesn’t boil down to a catchphrase. “Father of our country.” “Freed the Slaves” “I have a dream.” He doesn’t “own” wwII, or civil rights, he shares them with a lot of others.

    I can’t think of a phrase, but he could “own” the story “small town to world hero / horse and buggy to space / American values personified, ” and he would become greater than the sum of his parts. (the last noble white man? lol… think about the presidents that followed… ha!)

    The “look” of the memorial is of secondary importance (imho, again) to the underlying message, and in this case I think the artist got it right.

    I also think you should claim this myth for Ike before Barak Obama gets his hands on it. … lol… His story fits the mold pretty well… watch out!

  23. Ronnie Williams permalink
    March 23, 2012 7:51 am

    I wish the designers of the Memorial would take a minute and look at the Felix “Doc” Blanchard statues in Bishopville SC. The statues Shows ‘Doc” as a young Boy, a Heisman Winner, and a Military figure. This statue is tastefuly done and represents three stages of a mans life. Pres Eisenhower could be shown in the same light, A boy with dreams and ambitions, a military leader with the responsibility that comes with it, and as President of a country rebuilding after a gruelling conflict.

    Ronnie Williams

  24. March 23, 2012 10:23 am

    A mentality that mocks the presumed age of another as a lame substitute for cogent rebuttal is possessed of the exact same witless bigotry that drives watermelon jokes about blacks, ‘pretty-little-head’ put-downs of women, fey sneers about gays and scrooge remarks about Jews. How disconnected can one be that cackling ageist bigotry somehow seems different to them from racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-semitic bigotry?

    Ike didn’t live in the ‘future’ of course, he lived in the past and dealt very well with history as the hand was dealt him. He did so holding values that the future shows little promise of respecting in an era of they so shallow as to gleefully slur older generations for their age instead of plumbing history for lessons to improve America’s ‘future’.

    More the need for Ike to be portrayed as he was, not ‘rebranded’, for precious few are they of his character anymore. It is of scant satisfaction to see that proved on this forum.

  25. March 23, 2012 2:36 pm

    Dwight Eisenhower was a good and decent man who deserves a dignified and appropriate memorial. I would prefer to see him memorialized as a soldier in uniform as he plans to defend the world from the tyranny of nazism. Remembering him as a small boy should be reserved for the members of his family.

  26. Michael Dixon permalink
    March 25, 2012 9:14 am

    Susan,

    As a distant relative I took an interest in the memorial. I was very happy, excited and pleased to see him memorialized in DC where my family has gone to see other great accomplishments and individuals highlighted. (The Link simulator in The Air and Space museum was always a favorite.) I like you was disappointed in how Ike was portrayed. I don’t need to regurgitate all of Ike’s accomplishments here but feel the memorial came woefully short of my expectations for someone who I believe is not only one of the top presidents we have ever had but one of the most important & influential person in history.

    I was glad to see that you and other more immediate family have taken up the cause to correct the unfortunate direction the memorial has taken – even though I’m sure the misguided concept was not deliberate and was to celebrate his life and legacy.

    Just want to let you know you have support from ALL in the family. (Ike is my 3rd cousin – Ike’s Mom Link)

    Mike Dixon

  27. Tad La Fountain permalink
    March 30, 2012 9:48 am

    Dwight Eisenhower has already left his memorial – in the form of a Farewell Address. It is difficult to imagine a more powerful physical memorial than those words etched in stone – in their entirety – for visitors to ponder and reflect upon.
    While much is made of the tocsins embedded in the Address (“military-industrial” and “scientific-technological elite”), the genius is in the call for balance. His leadership was the last time there was clarity about ‘e pluribus unum.’ Since then, we have forfeited a sense of the center and have suffered mightily for it. We liked him then and appreciate him even more now because of the tight linkage between his words and his deeds, which – like Washington and Lincoln – appeal to our understanding of the best that can be.
    Our country and our world is better for DDE having passed through it in a physical sense. But the future of our country and our world would no doubt be enhanced by the power of his thoughts. Shouldn’t efforts to commemorate him be best made by sharing the essence of his wisdom with generations yet to be born? And wouldn’t that sharing be best made with no adornments or distractions?
    The gimcrackery of the proposal stands in such sharp contrast to the straight-forward nature of the man that it beggars the imagination that it ever saw the light of day.

  28. James K. Sunshine permalink
    March 30, 2012 2:56 pm

    To Susan Eisenhower:
    I read your admirable statement, and then looked carefully at the Gehry sketches. I do understand your reservations at the modesty of the design and its failure to be as monumental and heroic as you know your grandfather to be. How could you feel otherwise!
    Yet, after some considerable thought I was able to see what Gehry was driving at. We have many military men on many horses on many public squares in this country. Yet, your grandfather was more than that, far more than any of them. The essence of Gehry’s design is that it places the young farm boy as central to who Ike was at the beginning and who and what he became in the relief panels on either side, and in that way reflects all that is best in our country and all of us. That is what is truly heroic in the design, and why it is really fitting. There are perhaps some details that could stand further thought, particularly the tall screens designed to obscure the building behind. I can imagine maintenance problems. The tall columns seem strange as well. The last thing we should do in a memorial to your grandfather is a duplicate of the Wagnerian stone heroics so beloved by the Nazis that dominate the World War II monument not far away. So, on the whole, I am with Gehry.
    I was one of your grandfather’s younger soldiers. Every time I go back to London, I sit for a few minutes at the base of his statue in Grosvenor Square across from the American embassy, and think about the old days. It wasn’t all fun and games, and he made mistakes on the way, but he represented so well the best that we can be and sometimes are. He deserves a monument that captures that, not just another man on horseback.

    James K. Sunshine
    Oberlin, Ohio

  29. Sheila Lutz permalink
    April 9, 2012 6:16 pm

    Why not just a simple, tasteful notice of the man – his name, his date of birth/death, family, positions held and service dates, and the like. With a reference to his library, archives, etc. After all the finest living memorial “Eisenhower College” was allowed to die. It would be hard to top that memorial. Or maybe impossible to top that! And yes, I am a graduate of Eisenhower College – class of 1981.

  30. Johnny permalink
    May 28, 2013 4:33 pm

    This is for William “Bill” Slusher – I was linked to this page through research I was doing on Wikipedia and I wanted to inform you that, according to Wikipedia, Frank O. Gehry did, in fact, serve, not only, “in uniform,” but, in the U.S. Army………

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