The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., opens to visitors this weekend, honoring the iconic World War II supreme allied commander and two-term U.S. president.
Thursday's formal dedication can be viewed via livestream at 7 p.m. Eastern. Originally scheduled for May 8, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the event was postponed due to the pandemic.
The memorial is located in a new four-acre public park adjacent to the National Mall and across from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, on Independence Avenue SW between 4th and 6th streets. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, it portrays Eisenhower's journey from his boyhood in America's heartland to inspirational general with his troops on the eve of D-Day, and finally, visionary president surrounded by his civilian and military advisers.
Speakers at the dedication will include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a World War II Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient; Eisenhower Memorial Commission Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Fox News anchor Bret Baier will emcee.
Also giving remarks will be two of the 34th president's grandchildren: David Eisenhower, author and director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communication, and Susan Eisenhower, an international policy consultant, strategist, educator, author and member of The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee.
The 101st Airborne Honor Guard will present the colors, and the "President's Own" U.S. Marine Band and Voices of Service will give performances.
Commissioned by Congress in 1999, the memorial is the seventh presidential memorial or monument in the nation's capital, and the first to honor Eisenhower. His leadership in the North Africa campaigns and at Normandy made the general a beloved figure, one uniquely positioned to "wage peace" as commander in chief. Recruited by both major political parties to run for president, "Ike" won two landslide victories, and proceeded to shape modern America and the world. He fought to stop the growing spread of communism, creating a foreign policy that eventually ended Soviet dominance in eastern Europe. At home, he greatly expanded the interstate highway system, created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and advanced civil rights, overseeing the desegregation of the military and public schools.
The memorial combines various art forms and green space in a clean, simple tribute. At one end of the open-air plaza are bronze sculptures of Gen. Eisenhower addressing his troops on June 5, 1944, beneath a quote from his famous D-Day message. At the other end are sculptures of President Eisenhower with three advisers, in front of a world map depicted in stone bas relief. At the center is a tapestry of stainless steel cables outlining the cliffs of Normandy in peacetime, always changing in appearance due to shifting sunlight and nighttime lighting.
Looking on is another sculpture, solitary, of Eisenhower as a young boy in Abilene, Kan., seated with arms around his knees, wondering what his future holds.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel, executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and member of Dexter D. Harbour American Legion Post 79 in Ulysses, Kan., says it was crucial to present Eisenhower's career in its entirety.
"There's a tendency of specialists to stovepipe Eisenhower," Reddel says. "They either focus on the president or they focus on the general, and rarely the twain shall meet. But when you put those two special stories together, you have something quite extraordinary. You have an American citizen born without any advantages of family name, family money, any special societal, economic or other privileges, and that son comes to be not only a world leader, but for a period of time the leader of the free world .... This is a transformational world figure we're talking about."
A vigorous supporter of veterans, Eisenhower was a life member of American Legion Post 39 in Abilene. The American Legion awarded him its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, in 1945. As president, Eisenhower established Veterans Day as a national holiday and supported The American Legion's "Back to God" campaign.
In 2015, The American Legion passed a resolution supporting the memorial, but only if the design was acceptable to the Eisenhower family.
"I am deeply grateful," Susan Eisenhower told The American Legion Magazine in 2018. "I think what we are going to have today is a much more meaningful memorial, and this is in large part because The American Legion stood with us to help explain Ike’s legacy in a broader context."