The battle over plans for a Washington memorial to Dwight Eisenhower drags on, but meanwhile more and more of the Greatest Generation fades away each day.
If Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican nominee for president, has anything to say about it, 2016 will be the year in which the funding issues for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington are settled. As the new finance chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, Dole, who led the effort that raised more than $170 million in private donations for the National World War II Memorial, brings the right experience to the job.
Dole’s worries about the delays surrounding the Eisenhower Memorial are understandable. At the age of 92, he knows that time is not on the side of World War IIvets like himself who want the Eisenhower Memorial built while they are around to see it. Only 855,000 of the more than 16 million men and women who served in World War II are still living. Nearly 180,000 World War II vets die each year, and with the Eisenhower Memorial not having anywhere near the $140 to $150 million it is estimated to cost, more delays loom.
Delays on building memorials, especially presidential memorials, are nothing new. They rarely get completed in timely fashion. The Washington Monument was dedicated in 1885, the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, the Jefferson Memorial in 1943, and nothing has changed for our 20th century presidents. The Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, which opened to the public in 1997, took 42 years to complete after it won congressional approval.
In the case of the Eisenhower Memorial, the current delays are rooted in an unexpected source—the Eisenhower grandchildren. For years they have been asking for a more meaningful memorial than the extravagant, almost cinematic presentation of their grandfather’s life that Frank Gehry has designed, and out of respect for their wishes, Congress has held back funding, even though the memorial has received the governmental approval it needs from the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission.
“It simply defies logic and decency to design and build a memorial to Dwight Eisenhower without obtaining the approval of the Eisenhower family,” Republican Congressman Ken Calvert of California, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the memorial,” told The Washington Post last year.
By law, construction cannot begin on the memorial until full funding has been achieved, and what Bob Dole is hoping to do with his private funding efforts is get around Congress’s power to control when groundbreaking starts on the Eisenhower Memorial.