WASHINGTON - The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial will open in Washington this week, a long-awaited tribute to his legacy as Supreme Allied Commander in World War II and the 34th president.
But the memorial, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, also honors Eisenhower's Kansas roots.
The statues of a general and president are joined by a barefoot boy from rural Kansas alongside a quote from a 1945 speech: "The proudest thing that I can claim is that I am from Abilene."
This statue is of particular importance to Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chaired the memorial's commission.
"I think that sets the tone," Roberts said.
COVID-19 thwarted the original plans for dedication in April, on the 75th anniversary of the Allies' victory in Europe over the Nazis.
The date was chosen to acknowledge both Eisenhower's wartime leadership and support for the memorial from World War II veterans. President Donald Trump was to appear, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as keynote speaker and a military flyover before a crowd of thousands.
Thursday's dedication will be smaller and simpler - video tributes from Trump, Rice and others, along with a limited crowd at tables 12 feet apart and complimentary "I Like Ike" COVID-19 masks.
The memorial is across the street from the National Air and Space Museum, a popular destination for school field trips. Roberts hopes that teachers will take students, particularly those from small towns like Abilene, to reflect on Eisenhower's humble origins.
"The figure of the young boy looking toward the memorial and then you read right off the bat that in every man there is a young boy who is dreaming big," Roberts said.