The Eisenhower family is deeply grateful to Congress for designating a national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower. We also extend our special appreciation to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, especially Senator Dan Inouye, Senator Pat Roberts, and the Hon. Rocco Siciliano. They, and the other commissioners, have worked hard to bring the Eisenhower Memorial to this stage in its development. Secretary Ken Salazar has also been of enormous help and we thank him for his engagement. Additionally, we are indebted to many members of Congress, as well as officials of the District of Columbia for their ongoing involvement and interest in this issue.
Since our nation will have only one chance to erect such a memorial in Washington DC, no one should compel the Commission or Congress to meet an arbitrary deadline. Like countless others, we believe that those with authority for this memorial should take whatever time is necessary to get it right. There is ample historic precedent that supports this principle.
Two weeks ago we viewed the latest model presented by Gehry Partners on behalf of Frank Gehry. We are grateful to Mr. Gehry and his team for responding to what has been written and said about the design. We also appreciated their cordiality and their kind words about Dwight Eisenhower.
In response to the design modification, we offer this statement:
Much has been written about the fact that the Eisenhower Memorial will be the first presidential memorial of the 21st century. The ones built in this century will come with their own requirements and characteristics. They will be different from those of earlier times—including the civic monuments of the 1980s, 90s, even the ones envisioned as this century began.
The shift, we believe, came last summer. The US and global debt crisis ushered in a new era. Today, we must learn again to celebrate things that are simple, sustainable, and affordable. These values were dominant after World War II, as the country, under Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership, built a modern industrial infrastructure and emerged as a global superpower and the leader of the free world. Simple, sustainable and affordable were notions that were imbedded in Eisenhower’s thinking. These themes run throughout his many speeches, including his Farewell Address. Given the economic downturn, we are now called upon to reconnect with these timeless values.
From our perspective, many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed. The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive. Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs. This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial’s “backdrop,” is impractical and unnecessary for the conceptual narrative. For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them.
We are thankful to all the individuals who have contacted us with their views and suggestions. This will be their memorial—America’s gift to future generations. That’s why it must be built as part of a transparent public effort that enjoys widespread consensual approval. Until that is accomplished we will argue for more time to break the impasse in this process.
—The Eisenhower Family, May 30, 2012