Monday, November 6, 2017

Eisenhower National Memorial project begins with groundbreaking ceremony

Members of the Eisenhower family, government officials and memorial committee members broke ground for the memorial at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
America likes Ike and soon everyone who visits the Eisenhower National Memorial in Washington, D.C., will have a chance to learn about the accomplishments of Kansas’ favorite son, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Members of the Eisenhower family, government officials and memorial committee members broke ground for the memorial at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The new monument, designed by Frank Gehry, will celebrate Eisenhower’s success as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and his time as the 34th President of the United States. Sculptures by Sergey Eylanbekov will also be featured.

The memorial depicts Eisenhower at two points in his life. In the first sculpture, he is communicating with troops on D-Day just before the beach-landing in Normandy. The second celebrates his time as president. Tapestries made of steel cables will depict a peaceful Normandy beach, and several Eisenhower quotes will be featured as well.

Memorial visitors will also have the opportunity interact with the Eisenhower National Memorial through phone apps and a wireless technology guide.

Eisenhower’s great-grandson and KDOT’s Aviation Director Merrill Atwater said that the groundbreaking ceremony was an amazing event.

“Kansas will be represented in Washington, D.C.,” Atwater said. “And that’s pretty exceptional. The memorial is a whole square on the Mall.”

There are only five monuments in Washington D.C. that are named after presidents. Now, Eisenhower’s memorial will join them.

Senior Senator Pat Roberts is the chairman of the memorial board and was one of the speakers at Thursday’s event. He said he had the opportunity to meet President Eisenhower at his inauguration. When he shook Eisenhower’s hand, he never dreamed that he would lead the efforts for his memorial at the National Mall decades later.

“After all these years, why do we still ‘Like Ike?’” Roberts said.  “If he had done nothing else in life—his service as Supreme Allied Commander and savior of Western democracy should earn him the respect and admiration of every human being whose life, peace and prosperity that victory made possible.”

Roberts said that Eisenhower shouldn’t be revered because of his service alone, but honored because he served with quiet humility and strength.

 “The man was so humble that upon the surrender of the German Army his message back to Washington was simply, ‘Mission accomplished’,” Roberts said.

Roberts said that over the course of President Eisenhower’s career, America matured politically and culturally. By the time he retired, America was the leader of the free world.

“It has taken a long time for the historians to discover and figure out his greatness,” Roberts said. “Eisenhower anticipated the problems and averted them before they ever became a crisis. His steady hand and his quiet strategy didn’t draw attention like the administrations that followed him. Now six decades later, for that kind of leadership, he is remembered as one of America’s great presidents. Like Lincoln, he came from very humble origins. He never forgot his home-town and said, ‘The proudest thing I can claim is that I’m from Abilene.’”

Roberts said that Ike’s values - strength, humility, discipline and integrity - were also America’s.

“We couldn’t be where we are today without those values,” Roberts said. “We are here today to ensure Ike’s place in American and world history, for his achievements both as Supreme Allied Commander and the 34th president of the United States.”

Gretta Van Susteren, a former news commentator, was the emcee at the event. She said that those who were present came to remember a remarkable man who left a legacy for our great country. She said that Eisenhower embodied the values Midwesterners prize: determination and tenacity.

“When faced with a challenge he stayed focused,” Van Susteren said. “When faced with adversity he didn’t stop. He never gave in.”

Roberts also said that this memorial is being built not only to honor a single person, but to create a symbol for all generations.

“Lest anyone forget what we can achieve in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, let them come here and understand what Eisenhower and America have done, and what they in turn can do for themselves and our nation’s future,” Roberts said.

The Eisenhower National Memorial is expected to open on May 8, 2020. The cost of the project is approximately $150 million and will be primarily federally funded with some private donations. 

You can learn more about the memorial by checking out the website. 

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