Following years of delay, a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower is open to the public in the nation’s capital. The memorial depicts Eisenhower’s famed speech before D-Day as well as a bronze statute noting his humble beginnings in Kansas. The 34th President of the United States had a distinguished military career, leading the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe including a successful invasion of Normandy.
According to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, which is located in Eisenhower’s boyhood hometown of Abilene, the memorial in Washington, DC is the latest honor for the thirty-fourth President and General of the Army from Abilene. The memorial rose in tandem with Eisenhower’s reputation. Once ranked a lowly twenty-second out of thirty-four presidents, Ike now reckons at number five out of forty-five in the most recent presidential rankings poll. A national memorial in the nation’s capital—an honor bestowed on only seven former presidents—portends well for Ike’s future estimation.
Appreciation for the two-term president (1953-1961) is founded on his character and his accomplishments. Ike was a caring, steadfast, compassionate, farsighted, future-oriented leader. These traits found expression in the monumental achievements of his presidency: the Interstate Highway System, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Defense Education Act, and the first two Civil Rights bills since Civil War Reconstruction.
The new monument honors Ike’s presidency but it commemorates his military career as well. In addition to leading the victorious Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe as Supreme Commander, Ike also served as Military Governor of Germany, Army Chief of Staff, the first (informal) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the first Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Both the renewed appreciation for Eisenhower and the events of his life represented in the Memorial are based on the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Home to the General’s (his preferred title) personal and professional papers and more than 70,000 artifacts, the Abilene Eisenhower complex, is the proud custodian of Ike’s legacy. The site also includes Eisenhower’s boyhood home and his final resting place, where he lays next to wife Mamie and first-born son Doud. Brigadier General John S.D. Eisenhower, Ike and Mamie’s second son, is buried at West Point, where he graduated from the US Military Academy on June 6, 1944.
In 2018 and 2019 they comprehensively redesigned the museum exhibits to tell the Eisenhower story for a new generation of visitors. Complete with interactive image and video screens, the new exhibits present a vivid retelling of Ike’s rise from his birth in Texas to his final homecoming in Abilene.
Despite closed doors, the Abilene facility has continued to share the Eisenhower story during the Covid-19 pandemic with innovative public programs. Staff and guest speakers interact with a worldwide audience through social media and meeting platforms in book talks and panel discussions. The Eisenhower Foundation’s K-12 education programs have also gone online to meet the Covid challenge. Additionally, virtual activities, tours, and online exhibits are available on our website (www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov).
They hope to welcome visitors back to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum soon. A phased reopening plan relies on a number of variables and criteria. The campus comprises 22 acres and 5 buildings with varying levels of public space. Each space will require specialized attention in order to be reopened to the public. In the meantime, they will continue to promote Ike’s legacy, and in the same optimistic spirit as the new Eisenhower Memorial.