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The Eisenhower Memorial: Moving Forward

January 23, 2012

This post was originally published on February 8, 2012. 

After some months of escalating controversy, many people’s good intentions have been distorted. The Eisenhower family looks forward to continuing to work with the Eisenhower Memorial Commissioners to resolve the issues that have been identified during this public debate. We will work constructively with stakeholders during these deliberations. We do not seek to dominate the process, but we will continue to clearly express our views.

General Eisenhower, 1947 (U.S. Army)

Despite our concerns about the current concept, which relies on a Kansas theme, we would like to reiterate that our ties to the state of Kansas have never been greater. My sister, Mary, lives in Missouri/Kansas and all family members of my generation sit on the Eisenhower Foundation board located in Abilene, Kansas — an unprecedented show of support from our family and an indication of our proud associations with Kansas and the region. We recognize and celebrate the impact our grandfather’s roots had on his life-long achievements.

The issue of a Washington memorial is far more complex, however. Memorials in Washington speak for the nation as a whole. This, then, is the mission:  to find a fitting way to symbolize the importance of Dwight Eisenhower’s contribution to this country. As a “barefoot boy,” Eisenhower did not dream of fighting a war nor could he have imagined its unspeakable horror. By holding a fractious alliance together, his leadership as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, inspired and enabled the Allies to invade the coast of Normandy and fight on to victory, in the face of some of the most heinous crimes man has perpetrated on man.

During his presidency – through bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility – Eisenhower modernized America and its military capability to become the unrivaled leader of the free world and a beacon of hope for peoples everywhere.

This is the message we want to leave to future generations of Americans.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Marsha Freeman permalink
    February 8, 2012 2:56 pm

    I do not think the family should be defensive or back down on its view of what the Memorial should represent. President Eisenhower’s role in World War II, in military leadership after the War by ending the War in Korea, in preventing a Middle East war over the Suez crisis, in establishing civilian-scientific agencies for the development of nuclear energy and space exploration, are, in my view, his legacy to the nation, and globally, not where he came from.

    Marsha Freeman

  2. PAUL J. HANSEN permalink
    February 8, 2012 3:06 pm

    Hurrah Susan! Having served in public office and chaired numerous museum and heritage boards I appreciate how difficult it is to take strong positions on important points that will leave their mark on posterity long affter we are gone – Congrats to you and David for your leadership and flexibility!

    Paul J. Hansen

  3. February 8, 2012 3:26 pm

    Anyone who drives on an interstate highway or who has benefited from their immense economic impact on our modern society should be grateful to President Eisenhower.

  4. George S. Wills permalink
    February 8, 2012 4:03 pm

    Marsh Freeman has expressed the accurate view from the perspective of history and the meaning of Dwight Eisenhower for American history . I have had the privilege of working with the Eisenhower Foundation , in connection with the Museum program expansion during the 1990’s and believe that Dwight Eisenhower’s early years in Abilene , Kansas are appropriately honored and recognized there . Ms. Freeman is correct , and the National Memorial in Washington should focus on Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership as General and President

  5. Michael Heyeck permalink
    February 8, 2012 5:57 pm

    I applaud Susan’s efforts and those of her entire family. A 14 year-old boy pondering his life and impact on his country is exactly the opposite of what a memorial should be. This would connote an introspective memorial focused on the boy which Ike would have detested. The people should see Ike’s legacy from the nation’s point of view as General, as President. Imagine the Lincoln memorial with him as a child in a log cabin instead of him presiding for all time over a union he preserved. The MLK memorial, which is testament to a great man who influenced a powerful yet peaceful movement, is marred by the lack of true context of a quote indelibly etched in the stone for all time. Let’s not make another mistake that lives an eternity.

  6. Mack Teasley permalink
    February 9, 2012 10:08 pm

    Dwight D. Eisenhower’s strong Kansas roots are on display in his hometown of Abilene by way of museum exhibits in the Eisenhower Presidential Library and may be experienced by those touring his boyhood home located on its original site at the library complex. The town of Abilene [my town also!] even has a boyhood statue of young Ike located downtown. Tens of thousands of visitors each year are thus able to see Eisenhower’s roots first-hand when they visit Abilene, which is the appropriate location for such a tribute to his heritage as a “barefoot boy from Kansas.” Washington, D.C. is not the place to focus on Ike the youth. The Eisenhower Memorial should convey to future generations the legacy of General Eisenhower as the victorious Supreme Allied Commander in WWII and first commander of NATO and President, Eisenhower as the steadfast leader who guided our nation safely through eight years of the Cold War.

  7. Patricia Bresee permalink
    February 12, 2012 11:38 am

    As a Kansan who once visited the inspiring Abilene memorial to our famous (and beloved, I might add) citizen, I also object to the proposed Washington plans and support the Eisenhower family in their protests. I do not know if Ike’s homecoming speech was intended to set the tone for his whole life. It was a rather intimate speech to those who loved him — those who knew him and his family from his younger days in Abilene. The “barefoot boy” reference might have been familiar to his Kansas audience. Surely it refers to the poem by that title written by John Greenleaf Whittier. This poem was one I read as a child, too, for it still appeared in our Kansas textbooks. “Blessings on thee, little man,/Barefoot boy with cheeks of tan/….With the sunshine on thy face…I was once a barefoot boy.” The purpose of the poem was a wistful, but happy look at the past. Ike’s purpose in casually using it just might have been because he was trying to graciously put others at ease with the reminder that he was like them. I hope you will help create an image of Ike that shows him as the adult we proudly considered our own kin, perhaps looking up and out, with his sweet, kindly smile and his face toward the sun!

  8. Patricia Bresee permalink
    February 12, 2012 11:43 am

    As a Kansan who once visited the inspiring Abilene memorial to our famous (and beloved, I might add) citizen, I also object to the proposed Washington plans and support the Eisenhower family in their protests. I do not know if Ike’s homecoming speech was intended to set the tone for his whole life. It was a rather intimate speech to those who loved him — those who knew him and his family from his younger days in Abilene. The “barefoot boy” reference might have been familiar to his Kansas audience. Surely it refers to the poem by that title written by John Greenleaf Whittier. This poem was one I read as a child, too, for it still appeared in our Kansas textbooks. “Blessings on thee, little man,/Barefoot boy with cheeks of tan/….With the sunshine on thy face…I was once a barefoot boy.” The purpose of the poem was a wistful, but happy look at the past. Ike’s purpose in casually using it just might have been because he was trying to graciously put others at ease with the reminder that he was like them. I hope you will help create an image of Ike that shows him as the adult we proudly considered our own kin, with his kind smile and his face toward the sun!

  9. February 13, 2012 7:05 am

    Having met your grandfather at his Gettysburg farm following a tour of the battleground by your father in the early ’60s, I have remained an admirer my entire life. He left an impression that I will never forget. I support your cause and agree with you 100% regarding his legacy and the need to memorialize it in a more fitting and appropriate manner.

  10. lucy blankstein permalink
    May 17, 2012 9:23 am

    In choosing a monument, we have to consider the spirit of the person that is being honored as well as respect the site and its surroundings. The outstanding monuments in Washington, DC, where monuments are integral in the city plan, are the waves of white tombstones in Arlington Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and the Korean Memorial. Each contains an essence that is simple, yet crucial to imparting a visceral feeling for those who have served us.

    But I don’t see how steel tapestries, or bulwarks, or depictions of Eisenhower’s boyhood accomplish this. Would we have Lincoln splitting rails! What is it that could make this work? During World War II, I saw the newsreels that brought the relief and exhilaration of success in defeating our enemies.

    The pictures in my mind are of the rubble, and what it must have been like for General Eisenhower to command soldiers through this mire and then return to lead this country, still democratic and free. Instead of the planned cold steel of enclosing walls whose materials recall the instruments of war, I would choose materials of stone. Gravel and rock on swelling ground better expresses distances walked by our soldiers, rubble, Normandy dunes, and even with a little imagination, the Eisenhower farm. Some life-size bronze statues that lead us through a grove of trees to a quiet place might assist in the contemplation of the magnitude of Eisenhower’s accomplishments.

    The most significant quality needed in this monument is the experience of freedom. We do not need to hear the sound of his speeches that are available on the internet. Too often, the new media approach tells us what we should think. Instead, Eisenhower is better embodied in a space that offers the public the peace and dignity of silent discovery and the freedom of thought.

    Lucy J. Blankstein
    Washington, DC

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