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Family questions design of Eisenhower statue

By Greg Seaby
updated 2:07 PM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The monument's design depicts "a barefoot boy from Kansas"
  • In it, a young Eisenhower sees himself as general, president
  • Family says statue doesn't depict his military service, love of art
  • "Eisenhower's accomplishments transcend his upbringing," granddaughter says

(CNN) -- President Dwight David Eisenhower's family wants to put the brakes on the development of a memorial honoring the 34th U.S. president along the National Mall in Washington. The groundbreaking is scheduled for late 2012.

"The concept of the memorial as it now exists focuses on the dreams of a young boy, a barefoot boy from Kansas," Susan Eisenhower, the president's granddaughter, told CNN Wednesday.

The president's granddaughter and other family members are becoming increasingly critical of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission's design for the Eisenhower Memorial. It will be located in a square next to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building along Independence Avenue.

"The current design does very little to depict, as stated by Congress, that Eisenhower is being honored: for Supreme Command of Allied Forces during WWII and subsequently as the 34th President of the United States. Instead the central theme of the memorial is to a "'barefoot boy from Kansas.'" Granddaughter Anne Eisenhower wrote in a letter to the planning commission this week.

"The National Capital Planning Commission received a letter from the Eisenhower family expressing concerns regarding the design of the proposed memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and requesting a delay in the approval process." Executive Director Marcel Acosta told CNN. "The Commission appreciates the comments provided by the Eisenhower family regarding this important project."

The memorial's current plan is the work of architect Frank Gehry. In his design, the square's central statue depicts Eisenhower as a child gazing at images of himself as a general and a president. "Dreams of a Barefoot Boy" is a reference drawn from Gen. Eisenhower's homecoming speech from World War II.

"Dwight Eisenhower's accomplishments transcend his upbringing by far," Susan Eisenhower said.

The Eisenhower family has said that the president appreciated art, but he was not fond of the post-modern style.

"He was a bit of a traditionalist when it came to art." Susan Eisenhower said. "He was proud of the fact that during the war, they managed to save so many of the priceless pieces of Western civilization, the paintings that were in danger of being destroyed by the Nazis."

The Gehry design surrounds the square with eight-story metal, mesh woven tapestries. Susan Eisenhower believes the "metal screens" send an inappropriate message. "We need to have something that symbolizes Dwight Eisenhower, symbolizes him through inclusion."

The Eisenhower family wants the American people included in the final decision. "We look forward to a public debate about what this memorial should be," Susan Eisenhower said. "American taxpayers have been involved in funding part of this memorial. They not only have the perfect right to ask questions, but we welcome the discussion about what this figure meant to this country and how he should best symbolize and memorialize his contribution."

The National Capital Planning Commission said, "As NCPC has not received a complete application from the project applicant, the National Park Service acting on behalf of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, the Commission will not review the project at its upcoming February meeting. We anticipate that the project will be submitted for Commission review in the near future."

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