President Dwight D. Eisenhower lived a life full of public service for the country that he loved. His accomplishments rival that of some of the greatest American heroes. He was Supreme Commander of the troops invading France on D-Day, Supreme Commander of the NATO forces in 1951, and served two terms as president of the United States. Finally, President Eisenhower is getting his due with a memorial in Washington, DC. It should be a fitting tribute to a great man.
There is only one problem. Several problems, actually. The memorial does not come close to memorializing what kind of person President Eisenhower was. The planned tribute features an avant-garde statue of a young Eisenhower looking at metal artwork portraying his childhood home with the backdrop of the Capitol. The boy is staring in awe of what was to be his life. This could not be more off-base. The president’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, sent a complaint to the memorial committee saying:
“Ike” is simply the wrong figure to memorialise with an avant-garde approach. He was a traditionalist, bewildered by modern art, she said.
The problems go much deeper. The memorial is planned to be large and ornate, whereas Eisenhower was a simple man with simple tastes. The memorial for a man who devoted his to public service is being designed by Frank Gehry who turned down an opportunity to work on the Twin Towers after 9/11 because the pay was not high enough.
They also brought in Charles Ray, who is famous for his obscene statues, to advise the sculpting of the statue of the young Eisenhower There will also be benches inside the memorial that spell out “IXXI”, the roman numerals for 9/11. President Eisenhower has no connection at all to 9/11. Gehry may have included the benches as an obscure insult to Eisenhower, or as an inside allusion to the Twin Towers project. In any case, they, like most of the rest of the memorial, have nothing at all to do with President Eisenhower.
The design concept also does not fit with the surrounding architecture of the National Mall and the Capitol building itself. The National Capital Planning Commission exists to keep areas like the National Mall free of buildings and structures that do not fit with the architecture of the surrounding buildings. This is why tens of millions of tourists have enjoyed the same sights in Washington,DC for generations. This structure would be totally out of place.
The President’s family has objected to this memorial and has resigned from the committee. Despite these objections, they are moving forward with their plans for a Dwight D. Eisenhower “memorial.” Sadly, this is less of a memorial and more of a slap in the face of a man who deserves so much more. Congress should reconsider funding such an atrocity.