A Q&A With Susan Eisenhower About the Fight Over Her Grandfather’s Memorial
When it comes to presidential families, the Eisenhower family is among the quietest. Rarely do they speak up about anything, but that has changed dramatically as plans are finalized for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial adjacent to the Mall. Last week the family members joined forces to protest the design by architect Frank Gehry and the speed with which the Eisenhower Memorial Commission is moving the project forward.
A letter sent to the National Capital Planning Commission read, “We are calling for an indefinite delay in the approval process and an indefinite postponement for the groundbreaking for the memorial until there is a thorough review of the design.” It was signed by Anne Eisenhower with the note: “representing all members of the Eisenhower family.”
Anne’s brother is David Eisenhower, who resigned from the Eisenhower Memorial Commission in December. Susan Eisenhower, who is an author and an expert on international security and US-Russian relations, is another vocal opponent of the design. We talked with Susan about the memorial, the controversy, and what the family hopes to achieve.
The Eisenhower family does not strike me as a family that seeks out controversy. How did this happen?
There’s been a long process, going back to 1999, in identifying architects and the site. The site selection was one of the first jobs. The controversy began emerging this summer when there was a change in concept. Originally the plan was to put Dwight Eisenhower’s image on these metal tapestries. By summer, the approach changed to focusing on Eisenhower as a young boy. We had some concerns about that approach, and the more we looked into it the more we became concerned about other elements of the design—some fairly basic issues of scale, scope, and sustainability.
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