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The Eisenhower Family’s Unsuccessful Appeal to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission

June 20, 2013

What a sad and unworthy place we have come to on the Eisenhower Memorial! Yesterday, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission convened a public meeting to discuss the proposed Eisenhower Memorial. But instead of talking about the substance and feasibility of building Frank Gehry’s design, the commissioners acted as if nothing has changed in this country since 1999 when they started the effort to build a national memorial to the five-star general and two-term president. The commissioners gave nary a nod to the sequester, which has cut public funding to many vital national programs. Nor did they properly assess and account for the likelihood of continuing and future fiscal constraints. Instead, Chairman Rocco Siciliano chose to focus on his frustrations with the Eisenhower family–specifically “the girls”– without properly acknowledging the overwhelming public opposition to the design.

In Washington we are used to political and public policy disappointments, but I have been continually astonished by the degree to which the commission has gotten away with baldly mischaracterizing my family’s position. The attacks directed at me specifically yesterday were a transparent attempt to sideline the views of our father – Ike’s son and executor of his will – John S.D. Eisenhower.  Rather than acknowledging my father’s views on this design, as expressed in a letter last fall, Chairman Rocco Siciliano talked about “the girls” – as if my sister and I, the designated spokespersons for our father and siblings, were willful rogues. He also declared that the Eisenhower family had been involved over the years but had not spoken up until recently. This claim is counter to a decade of correspondence to the commission from various family members about our concerns with the process and the design. Lastly he repeated again that my brother, David, had voted for the Gehry design, when in fact David supported the concept of another architect.

The unanimous vote yesterday – defiantly rejecting my family’s appeal for consideration of fiscal realities (see below) – was a sorry show of group-think. The commissioners were appointed to serve the public and guide this effort, which has been funded at the taxpayers’ expense.

The Eisenhower family is united in its belief that the nation and Congress must get this memorial right. The current design will be seen clearly from Capitol Hill, it will reconfigure the traffic pattern in a congested part of Washington, and it will cost far more than current estimates, since the 80-foot metal scrims will have to be replaced over time and the National Park Service will have difficulty in keeping them clean and free of debris.

The scrims remain the central issue. In addition to durability concerns, they serve to undermine an important facet of the Eisenhower legacy: bipartisanship. Our family has pointed out they will create a metal barrier – a curtain – which will separate the Eisenhower Memorial from the Department of Education’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Building. President Eisenhower and then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson worked together in a way not seen in decades.

Mr. Gehry told my sister and me last year that the metal scrims are a non-negotiable part of the memorial design – the element that makes this a Gehry.

Apparently this consideration has trumped all else.

It is impossible to predict if the Commission will ultimately succeed in getting the Gehry built. But if they do they will have succeeded through the promotion of half-truths, disinformation about Dwight Eisenhower’s family, and most importantly an apparent disregard for the interests of the American taxpayer in this resource-constrained era.

Below is the appeal my family submitted yesterday for the Commission’s consideration.

While the Eisenhower family was not in attendance for this meeting, this blog is based on several reports we’ve received. Chairman Simpson read the following letter on our behalf: 

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher Catherwood permalink
    June 20, 2013 11:57 am

    We can sympathise more than fully. Most of your readers (unless they are Presbyterians) will not have heard of my maternal grandfather Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a Welsh preacher of the last century and who was often in the USA. But now, more than 30 years after his death, he has become like a football in many circles, claimed by all sorts of people for entirely their own purposes. And does anyone ever heed what his descendants think….??? Exactly! You must be joking! I have been attacked in books just as Susan has been and by people who never really knew him at all and want to remould him in their own image. Oh well… So (a) the decision is truly terrible and (b) ignoring the Eisenhower family itself is unpardonable and (c) having been there myself I am with Susan 101% of the way!

  2. sharpdan permalink
    June 20, 2013 12:12 pm

    Susan,

    Very sad indeed!

    I wish you better luck with your latest appeal.

    Warm regards,

    Dan Sharp

  3. N. Farmer-Martin permalink
    June 20, 2013 12:23 pm

    Susan, How can the public help? What would you like individuals to do in full support of your position?

  4. June 20, 2013 12:44 pm

    Thank you very much. You can help by calling, writing/faxing members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission (especially the Congressional ones). And forward my blog to your friends, via email, Facebook or Twitter.

  5. June 20, 2013 1:17 pm

    Sad times indeed… Please post if you can contact information to the appropriate members of this Commission. Be glad to pass along and do whatever is necessary to help. Odd how “they find money” for other unnecessary projects an shirk the proper respectful things to do as public servants… Wonder what Ike would say if he were here right now… THOSE FORCES” WOULD SHAKE IN THEIR BOOTS at HIS COURAGE in behalf of OR Country.”
    Stand steadfast Susan…let us know what we can do…
    (forwarding this post to many…)

  6. Ann Turpin permalink
    June 20, 2013 2:44 pm

    What an insult! “the girls,” indeed. Dismissive and offensive–a sure sign they know they can’t defend the design any other way.

  7. Cynthia Osborne Hoskin permalink
    June 20, 2013 4:14 pm

    I find the commission entirely in keeping with most of the misguided and self-serving thinking that prevails at the moment in our country. However, the reference to the “girls” and other Eisenhower slurs is indeed unforgivable and crass, as is the complete disregard for family wishes. Humbug!

  8. Howard permalink
    June 20, 2013 4:19 pm

    Maybe Chairman Rocco and da boys have their hands in the cookie jar…ya think?

  9. ANIKO permalink
    June 21, 2013 12:42 am

    SUSAN, VERY SAD INDEED!!
    THIS IS ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION OF BUREAUCRATIC INEPTITUDE!!

    IKE’S MONUMENT NOT ONLY WOULD COMMEMORATE HIS HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE BUT ALSO WOULD SERVE AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. WHAT BETTER WAY TO DISSEMINATE THAT INSPIRATION—THAN BY LISTENING TO THE FAMILY’S VIEWS AND WISHES AND ACT ON THEIR BEHALF!.
    THIS PRESENT COMMISSION’S VOTE IS A DISGRACE AND AN INSULT TO RESPONSIBLE CITIZENRY.
    PL LET US KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP!!! ANIKO

  10. June 22, 2013 3:54 pm

    I do not know how anybody could possibly complain about a chicken wire contraption strung between stucco columns the size of Atlas Rockets for an Eisenhower Memorial? All at the cost of a good trip to the Moon and back!

    You hire Gehry and you get incoherence raised to the nth degree.

    Sitting under trees and reading Eisenhower’s thoughts would all be too simple so we get Barnum and Bailey meet Godzilla.

    Seems we have reached the stage in the USA when the pigs looked at humans, and the humans looked at the pigs and nobody could tell the difference.

    Stop the funding.

    I am a former Army Officer, 1LT, Central Highlands of Vietnam, Bronze Star.

  11. June 24, 2013 6:48 am

    Susan,

    So sorry to hear of this latest development.

  12. August 19, 2013 2:45 am

    Just installed this little memorial to your grandfather in my classroom here outside Munich:

  13. (Mr.) Jazz De Cou permalink
    October 3, 2013 9:41 am

    (Mr.) Jazz De Cou
    American Foreign Service officer, retired.
    Le Vésinet, France
    October 3. 2013

    I made a modest financial contribution to the Eisenhower Memorial but that was before
    learning how brutally the Eisenhower family was treated by the commission. What seems
    obvious to me is that the memorial will have much to do with Gerhry and pathetically
    little to do with one of the our greatest presidents, who has been the victim of not-
    so-benign neglect, having been almost airbrushed out of our history despite his having
    been a visionary who correctly foresaw what the greatest future threats would be to our
    security and way of life. Everything in the Farewell Address is relevant to our times and
    will remain so.

    The most important message of the monument should not be the talent of the
    architect but rather the stature of Eisenhower, a general who believed that the real
    final objective of the campaign in World War II was to lay the foundation of a lasting
    peace. As a president he ended a war he inherited and then staunchly preserved
    and promoted peace with dedication and imagination.

    The focus of the memorial should be on Eisenhower’s wisdom and its enduring relevance
    to our nation’s security and well being. That wisdom is best expressed in his own words.

    I wish I had the words to express how distressed I am that the memorial may do an
    enormous disservice to a president whose accomplishments have not received the
    recognition from later generations, who are not sufficiently aware of the gratitude our
    country will always owe to Eisenhower.

    I did not vote for him. Only with passing of time did I awaken to his greatness. I now
    feel a moral obligation to speak out in his behalf. The obligation is a burden but one
    that I gladly bear.

    Sincerely,

    Jazz De Cou

  14. Mr. Li permalink
    January 27, 2014 3:21 pm

    Eisenhower was a good missionary of his God, a good servant of his People. Eisenhower deserves a better memorial, the nation and its capital deserves a better memorial, the world deserves a better memorial.

  15. John Andere permalink
    March 20, 2014 3:59 pm

    This is completely surreal and bizarre.
    I can’t tell if it’s that law makers feel they HAVE to be spending money or that the ego of the architect MUST be served, The reply to the question of “the scrim” makes me think it’s the latter, but even that can be derailed by the former!
    You should both be SERVING THE PEOPLE and the MEMORY OF A GREAT PRESIDENT, not yourselves!

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