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Finally, a groundbreaking for the Eisenhower Memorial

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, walks offstage after speaking during the groundbreaking of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, in Washington Thursday.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, walks offstage after speaking during the groundbreaking of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, in Washington Thursday. AP

After years of delay and controversy, construction is underway for Washington’s National Eisenhower Memorial.

“I hope everyone pays attention to the memorial, it’s great for the legacy for Kansas and for every young person who comes here to see it,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told an audience gathered to witness the memorial to the nation’s 34th president.

He praised fellow Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower for his “quiet leadership” and strength and resolve.

Eisenhower was president from 1953 to 1961, a five-star Army general in World War II and the first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Congress originally authorized the memorial in 1999. It’s groundbreaking near the National Mall had been delayed due to family objections to the previous design from architect Frank Gehry, which featured eight-story-high columns supporting a steel tapestry showing the Kansas prairies where Eisenhower was raised.

Instead, the parties agreed to the creation of a metal tapestry mural of the Normandy cliffs that illustrates when Eisenhower launched the World War II D-Day invasion of 1944.

The National Capital Planning Commission granted unanimous final approval to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission Oct. 5.

Roberts said it is common for monuments to get delayed, citing the lengthy process involved with Washington’s memorials to President Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King.

“In this particular case, the key was getting the family on board and we agreed on this latest iteration or design,” Roberts said.” If we hadn’t done it now, I’m afraid would not be a memorial. I think everyone realized that so they finally came together.”

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who co-chaired the the Eisenhower Memorial Finance Committee with Roberts, couldn’t make it, Roberts’ office said.

The groundbreaking ceremony was emceed by broadcaster Greta Van Susteren. Among those attending were West Point Cadet Simone Askew, Floyd Renken, who served in the Army Air Corps during the D-Day Invasion and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower.

Susan Eisenhower and her family hope the memorial will honor his “patriotism, humility, fairness, service to citizens, and his sacrifice for the cause of peace and prosperity at home and abroad.”

Contact: Joseph Cooke at jcooke@mcclatchydc.com

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