Roberts eager to move monumental project for Ike

Article Author: 
Tim Carpenter, The Topeka Capital-Journal
News Abstract: 
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is weary of the protracted battle over securing a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.

He's recruiting a bipartisan contingent in the House and Senate in a bid to break the design deadlock and start construction of the memorial to the man who departed Abilene to become supreme allied commander during World War II and 34th president of the United States.

"It's a highly deserved memorial," said Roberts, a member of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission's executive board. "It fits Eisenhower's life and what he would have wanted. We're down to crunch time."

Unexpected delays have been driven by dissent among some Eisenhower family members regarding the memorial's shape and message. The goal was to finish the memorial in 2015, but critics seek an indefinite delay.

"We're so close, but so far," Roberts said.

This week, Eisenhower Memorial Commission executive director Carl Reddel and other commission staff members are in Kansas to generate support for the project. They'll be in Wichita, Abilene and Salina before the 2 p.m. Wednesday presentation at Kansas State University by Dan Feil, the commission's executive architect.

Reddel is to discuss Eisenhower and the memorial at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Dole Institute of Politics at The University of Kansas in Lawrence. He'll delve into the design concept of architect Frank Gehry, as well as the squabbling over the plan.

In 1999, Congress created the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to guide development of the permanent tribute.

The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission agreed in 2005 to place the memorial across the street from the National Air and Space Museum and north of the U.S. Department of Education. It would have a clear view of the U.S. Capitol.

The Eisenhower commission unanimously endorsed Gehry's proposal in 2010. His vision included giant woven steel tapestries with mesh-like depictions of touchstone scenes of Eisenhower's life. The site would have stone reliefs with text quoting Eisenhower. There would be columns 80 feet tall and 11 feet wide.

Roberts said the objective was to carry viewers through Eisenhower's rise from Kansas to international figure.

"This is the American experience," the senator said. "He went right to the top and then at a significant moment seized the opportunity and provided leadership to protect the free world from Nazi Germany. He then came back and was president for eight years, and we had peace and prosperity."

While the president's grandson David Eisenhower endorsed Gehry's design, granddaughter Susan Eisenhower's opposition prompted delays.


"We've met with her time and time again," Roberts said. "I've tried to be the broker between her and the commission. It's time to move. Or else we'll see another decade go by without an Eisenhower memorial."

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News Date: 
Monday, April 29, 2013