Eisenhower Family Statement

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 

12 thoughts on “Eisenhower Family Statement

  1. In looking at the latest plan for the Eisenhower Memorial, it’s hard to tell that a below grade plaza on the north side of the Education Building (LBJ), provides natural light to the National Library of Education. The library is located in the basement of LBJ and relies on the north wall of floor to ceiling glass for all of its natural light.

    The library is a favorite place for large meetings because of the spaciousness and the natural light provided by the large windows that look out onto a landscaped meadow with trees and large rocks toward the west end of the below grade plaza. Over the years, Secretaries of Education have used the library as a backdrop for interviews, discussion groups, and filming videos.

    If the memorial is built as planned, the National Library of Education will have no natural light and the birds and squirrels that currently make their home in the trees and meadow will have to find someplace else to live.

    Some version of the memorial could certainly be built without robbing the National Library of Education of all of its natural light.

    Thank you.
    Barbara Holton

  2. Susan…You are such a beautiful human being… President Eisenhower, in his time, serving both Militarily and Presidential, “saw” things as they were…and realized that many TRUTHS
    had to be spoken before he left office…he would be so proud that you take the time, the courage, and the conviction of the Heart to lead, as you can, following the path of Truth, and Sharing Truths… That is the most admirable thing anyone can choose much less, DO… A most sincere, heart-felt, Thank you for being WHO YOU ARE SUSAN !!! 🙂

  3. This is a wonderful statement by the family. As a lifelong Kansan who remembers Ike and his trip to Wichita, where thousands lined the airport road to see his wonderful smile, Ike didn’t need grandiosity of scale and display to be great; his greatness spoke for itself. I would urge anyone interested in this matter to visit his Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, where you will see a statue of General Eisenhower in the middle of a wide open space of beautiful Kansas sky between the Library and the Museum, and it will inspire you as you admire a great man of a different time, when boastfulness was not the way, and greatness had to be earned. Ask any veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq whether “architecture” of the sort Mr. Gehry has proposed wouldn’t better be replaced by a sculpture that knows its own limitations and simply lets greatness shine through.

  4. I want to thank the Eisenhower family for being so rightfully stern and persistent about this whole Gehry thing. To some degree, I can understand how they feel. I’m distantly related to Thomas Jefferson myself. I’m sure I would be just as upset as they are about this whole issue. Gehry is hanging on solely because of the profit he will make off of a 140 million dollar project. Personally I think Mr. Gehry should be paid for his time and have the project dumped so that a more suitable memorial design can be attained that the Eisenhower family would be proud of. I wonder about a monument like the Jefferson Memorial for Dwight, certainly not the largest, but prominant and still able to turn heads. And with the abilities of today’s industry, I would assume the price tag would be much lower to build something of the same size when you do the math. Thus keeping his humble personality in mind and in memory. Such a memorial today would be simple, effective at inspiring interest in his story and cost effective.

  5. The opportunity for this particular monument at this particular juncture in time is vitally important. As female sculptor, I wish that there was more HEART felt design happening in the United States, more work that really speaks to the importance of Human LIfe, of Leadership and of the Accomplishments and vast reaching changes a leader like President Eisenhower faced. The “coldness” and chosen information for this memorial does not seem to make it timeless or globally relative. It is worth the time it takes…whatever time that is, to reassess until the family feels this site says what it needs to say and is done so in a manner that will serve the global community.

  6. An artist like Gehry – like Lady Gaga – whose life work has been irony should not be chosen as the knowing insider joke of the hipster is always part of the ongoing work of the “anti-establishment” artist (it is not really art, it is hidden political sociology and commentary and Gehry is incapable of anything beyond). Unless I am missing something from the on line photos of the mock up, the inside joke here seems to be that the collection of marines around Eisenhower in the historic “fly fishing” photo taken at D Day’s departure seems to intentionally suggest toy soldiers of the kind children used to play with. And the people following in the background seem to suggest the horde which follows blindly like those in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” lured to the alien spacecraft.

  7. Consensus does not ensure excellence. There are times when innovation must be protected, harbored and nurtured. For example, the Vietnam War memorial, which changed the way memorials are understood in being experiences rather than objects, would never have existed if a political consensus was required.

    The truth is that the the Eisenhower family, not the client by he way, simply does not like the design. Arguing for consensus will not honor Ike but rather produce another milquetoast piece of stone.

    If the economic downturn limits our ability to construct the memorial, then we should not build it now. Building an “affordable” monument will honor no one.

  8. I don’t understand what is so hard about this deal…Halprin made a tribute to FDR where one can wander and visualize the time past, read the words, and see some of the people and feel the Great Depression and then there is the landscape and water where one can contemplate the relationships and one’s own relationship to those times…

    Same goes with Maya Ling where one can walk and see the folks who died and then the reflection and the landscape…I was an Army Officer in the Central Highlands of Vietnam

    This deal of Gehry’s is absolutely out of scale with just about anything and speaks to the need for a bombastic Frank Gehry statement…EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT IS NEEDED…

    A time and place for reflection and some peace and not this over sized statement to Gehry’s ego…

    The words, the man and the landscape and some place to reflect on the meaning of all this…

    But then you hire Frank Gehry and you get all this overblown stuff…

    chuck desler architect

  9. In cases where a proposal is a disappointment to the client, it is the obligation of a professional to present alternatives. Design excellence is universally recognized. Gehry Partners should offer to go back to the drawing board.

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