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Eisenhower Memorial, opening in DC this week, pays tribute to Ike's Kansas roots

By Bryan Lowry, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

"Here is a young man who dreamed big, he climbed the ladder of success."

Victoria Tigwell, deputy executive director of the memorial commission, elaborated on this point during a tour of the memorial for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle.

"If you come down there and you see this young boy and you listen to the audio tour, you'll find out he had no particular advantages. His family wasn't well-known. His family wasn't wealthy," she said.

"He's this far out of the wild west, right, when he's born. And he was determined to get an education. He didn't have any money. He figured out how to do it. And then in everything he did he's really acknowledged as really one of the best whether he was a staff officer, a general or president," she said. "And if you can see that that kid can do that, I hope you think, 'I can do that.'"

But Gehry's decision to focus on Eisenhower's Kansas boyhood caused controversy with Eisenhower's family.

Susan Eisenhower, the former president's granddaughter, testified to Congress in 2012 that the "Horatio Alger-like narrative that Eisenhower grew up to 'make good' is a slight on the countless millions of people, during World War II and the Cold War, whose very existence was directly affected by Eisenhower's decisions."

 

The decision to scrap designs for tapestry of Kansas landscape in favor of a depiction of Normandy at peace alleviated her concerns. In a Friday interview, Susan Eisenhower stressed her family's love for Kansas, but said she wanted to ensure the focus remained on Eisenhower's leadership during war and peace.

"The beaches in Normandy in peacetime is a monumental concept because it covers both his presidency and winning the peace after the war," Susan Eisenhower said.

The tapestry sits behind two statuary scenes, one depicting Eisenhower as president and another depicting him as a general speaking to the 101st Airborne ahead of the D-Day invasion.

In the presidential scene, he is receiving advice from two civilian aides and one military official, symbolic of the tensions he faced as a Cold War-era president.

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