When the Speaker appointed us to serve on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, we were honored to help bring to life a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, a great general and a visionary president. Along with our commissioner colleagues, we reviewed numerous options for the memorial concept, deliberating how best could we capture and convey Eisenhower’s life and legacy.
From the beginning, it was clear that in addition to the appointed Eisenhower Memorial commissioners, a larger number of stakeholders would have a say in the memorial’s development and design. Congress had to approve the site, which it did in 2006, approving a location surrounded by institutions that Eisenhower helped create as president.
The General Services Administration, through its Design Excellence Program, would employ panels of architects, designers and private citizens (including David Eisenhower and our chairman, Rocco Siciliano) to select the designer of the memorial — Frank Gehry. The commission endorsed that selection and Gehry’s design repeatedly.
As a federal commission, funds had to be provided by Congress to operate the commission and begin the preliminary design of the memorial, which Congress has done nearly every year since 2001.
Three federal commissions had to review the design and grant the commission permission to keep moving forward. The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission all reviewed the design and granted preliminary approvals. An environmental assessment and a memo of agreement, both involving major opportunities for public comment, between the National Park Service, the State Historic Preservation Officer and other federal commissions were completed in 2012.
The views of the Eisenhower family were considered and were represented by David Eisenhower during his 10 years on the commission. We served with him and we remember well his support for the project, along with the participation of other Eisenhower heirs.
With the inputs of these and other stakeholders, the design by Frank Gehry has undergone continuing revisions. Gehry has been responsive and inclusive as he modified his design to comply with the aesthetics and interpretation of the multiple stakeholders.
Why this short history lesson? Every memorial in Washington must navigate this democratic process in memorializing our national identity. The system itself is designed to produce a collective view, rather than let any single entity have veto authority on the final design, very much in the spirit of the democratic process Eisenhower valued and promoted.
In October, both the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission gave their approval to the design. The time has passed for efforts to stall, delay or obstruct completion of this memorial. It is time to move this project from concept to completion. We count among our former colleagues great leaders such as Ted Stevens and Daniel K. Inouye, the original authors of the legislation to create this memorial. Let’s honor them by funding the memorial and getting it done.
Leonard Boswell represented Iowa’s 3rd District from 1997 to 2013. Prior to his service in Congress, he retired from the Army at the rank of lieutenant colonel where he was a decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. Dennis Moore represented Kansas’ 3rd District from 1999 to 2011. Prior to his service in Congress, he served in the Army and the Army Reserve. While in Congress, both served as members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.