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Honoring Eisenhower at long last

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

That design was the result of several revisions, driven in part by opposition from the Eisenhower family and lawmakers who have said they could not endorse the project without the family's approval.

Family representatives gave their blessing last year, after the designers agreed to scrap an earlier rendition of the tapestry that called for a pastoral landscape of Eisenhower's hometown of Abilene, Kan.

Anne Eisenhower, another of Eisenhower's granddaughters, called the new design "a fitting image that captures the transformational era during which Dwight Eisenhower led our allied forces and later the free world."

The park will also be home to three 9-foot-tall bronze statues of Eisenhower -- as a young boy growing up in the American heartland, as the supreme commander of the Allied forces in World War II and as the United States' 34th president -- accompanied by stone blocks etched with Eisenhower quotes reflecting each of the three periods.

Opponents have argued that none of the proposed designs have provided a coherent narrative of Eisenhower's life. They've said the proposal is too expensive and flamboyant to pay tribute to a president who was famously frugal. The project will cost close to $150 million, mostly funded by taxpayer dollars.

They have also criticized the approval process, which they say was strongly tilted in Gehry's favor. And they're not ready to give up until the first shovel hits the ground.

"We all feel it was just steamrolled through without the slightest interest in the chorus of opposition," said Bruce Cole, a member of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. Cole is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and among the design's most vocal opponents.

"I'm a historian, not a futurist, but I feel that rising generations of Americans will find the Gehry design an object of mockery rather than a fitting memorial to President Eisenhower," Cole said.

The criticism has been widespread and bridges ideological divides.

A New Yorker column in 2013, before the latest rendition, called the scale of the design "preposterous" and the cost appalling.

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