One of the newer sites in Washington is the Dwight D Eisenhower Memorial. It’s in a very convenient location for many visitors. Across the street from the Air and Space Museum and diagonal from the National Museum of the American Indian. And just two blocks away from the National Botanic Garden at the base of Capitol Hill.
Dwight Eisenhower was a significant figure in the mid-20th century. He was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII, president of Columbia University, and the 34th president of the United States.
Eisenhower was president during a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. In foreign policy he was an internationalist and focused on containing the spread of communism. Domestically he was a moderate. He kept all FDR’s New Deal programs, expanded Social Security, and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Dedicated in 2020, the memorial focuses on Ike’s childhood in Kansas with a well-done sculpture of him and a child gazing into the future. From there the site is built around his role on the world state. The famous photo of him talking with troops from 101st Airborne Division the evening before they parachuted into enemy controlled France on D-day is recreated.
The other sculpture represents Eisenhower’s White House years. Standing before his desk with a map of the world behind him, he is flanked by two civilians and a military officer. The figures are not representations of specific people but show the often competing demands of civilian and military priorities that Ike had to reconcile. Unfortunately, Ike’s most important legacy his perceptive message to future America about the dangerous influence of the military-industrial complex, is hidden behind this sculpture.
Behind all of this runs a 450 foot wire tapestry depicting the peacetime beaches of Normandy, site of the D-day invasion. The movement of the sun constantly changes how we perceive this piece of work.
Overall, I think Ike deserved better. The tapestry never fully delivers on its promise of illustrating D-day. The reliance on only one type of stone gives the place a rather sunbaked, monotone feel. And the absence of any kind of water feature that could both cool the environment and provide a meditative focus from city noise is bewildering. I do however think the place will have a better feel as the trees mature. Nonetheless, I do recommend visiting it to reflect on Eisenhower’s service and contribution to our national life.