Three historians are recommending the usage of passages from key speeches by President Dwight D. Eisenhower — including his message to troops during the D-Day invasion — to help represent the 34th president in a planned memorial in the nation's capital.
On Wednesday evening, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission is hosting a public forum on which of Ike's words should be included in the memorial planned for a site off the National Mall. The design of the planned memorial has been hotly debated.
Professor Louis Galambos of Johns Hopkins University, Professor Richard Striner of Washington College in Maryland and former Library of Congress historian Daun van Ee studied Eisenhower's speeches to recommend six for the commission's consideration. Two are from Eisenhower's tenure as World War II general and four come from his presidency.
Among the selections, the panel is recommending one passage from Eisenhower's D-Day address during the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy, France. Eisenhower served as the supreme Allied commander in Europe.
"The tide has turned," Eisenhower said. "The free men of the world are marching together to victory!"
The public forum follows a controversy that arose over an inscription in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial — after it was already built in Washington. After critics including poet Maya Angelou complained it was not accurate, it was decided that a paraphrased and abbreviated quotation would be removed from that monument.
Eisenhower Memorial planners said they wanted to hear public debate, questions or input before any inscriptions are carved in stone.
The scholars are recommending two lengthy passages from Eisenhower's Guildhall Address in 1945, when he was being honored in London following the defeat of Nazi Germany. Historians have pointed to the Guildhall speech as one of his most powerful.
Retired Air Force Gen. Carl Reddel, the executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, said few people would object to including a passage from the Guildhall Address
"Eisenhower while he wore the uniform made other powerful speeches, but this one is large," Reddel said. "It speaks to the rationale of America's role in the world and in combat."
Memorial architect Frank Gehry has planned space for several lengthy excerpts from speeches, as well as two shorter quotations to help define sculptural elements devoted to Eisenhower as a general and as president. Gehry has said he admired the engravings of two of Abraham Lincoln's speeches in the Lincoln Memorial: the Gettysburg Address and the second inaugural address. Other memorials have used shorter one-sentence quotations.
Executive Architect Daniel Feil said longer passages could reveal Eisenhower's thinking.
"When you have a larger text, you get the cadence of how someone speaks. You get a sense of their thought pattern," he said. "You can have a more profound idea come forward."
The 12-member presidentially appointed memorial commission will decide which quotations to use, pending approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Park Service, which would operate the memorial.
Eisenhower, who was born in Texas and raised in Kansas, was very quotable, often speaking of his hometown of Abilene in America's heartland, Reddel said. Scholars looked for passages that could serve as a window into Eisenhower's thinking and his larger significance in history. Eisenhower died in 1969.
From his presidency, the historians recommended passages from Eisenhower's first and second inaugural addresses. In his first inauguration in 1953, Eisenhower spoke about foreign policy and the need for peace during the Cold War.
"We must be willing, individually and as a nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us," he said. "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
A few months later, Eisenhower spoke before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin in a speech entitled "The Chance for Peace." He spoke about the rising cost of Cold War-level military spending and the nation's priorities.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed," he said.
In his second inaugural, Eisenhower focused again on foreign policy and the need for unity among nations.
The historians also recommended Eisenhower's 1961 farewell speech from the White House as one of the key speeches of his presidency when he warned of the growing influence of "the military-industrial complex." But the scholars did not recommend a specific passage from that speech for use in the memorial.
For more than a year, Gehry's memorial design has been criticized by some for its "avant-garde approach" to memorial architecture and praised by others for its innovative elements. Gehry proposed a memorial park for Eisenhower with statues of the two-term president and World War II hero — framed by large, metal tapestries depicting a Kansas landscape from his boyhood home.
Those tapestries are also a sticking point, with some members of the Eisenhower family calling for a simpler design. At a congressional hearing on the memorial in March, the family and some lawmakers called for the plans to be scrapped and for a new open design competition to begin.
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