I rarely agree with columnist George Will about anything but, if what he states is accurate, I have to share his concerns about a proposed monument in Washington, D.C., for Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower was President when I was in grade school. My parents, lifelong Democrats, thought so much of him that they joined many other Southerners in voting for a Republican candidate for the first time in their lives in 1952. “Ike” was a bona fide war hero, a country boy who rose to the rank of 5 star general and served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War II and the first commander of NATO.
Eisenhower turned his military success and command experience to good use in the politics of being President. Although some criticize his failure to confront McCarthyism sooner and his tolerance of some corruption in his administration, Eisenhower stood against military-industrial excess, used the nation’s military power wisely, led the nation in great strides in racial equality, and presided over a time of economic growth for the country.
According to Will and other reporter, the proposed “memorial” harkens back to his days as a “barefoot boy” in Kansas reflecting on his potential greatness. The monument fails to recognize the accomplishments of the man. Will points out that Philip Kennicott, cultural critic of the Washington Post wrote that the memorial “ celebrates the ‘relatively small representation of Eisenhower’ because ‘there were other Eisenhowers right behind him, other men who could have done what he did, who would have risen to the occasion if they had been tapped.”” That’s just the point. They were not tapped, Eisenhower was. General George Marshall is reported to have kept a notebook with a list of officers he was watching develop for over a decade. It is a list of talented men who served their country well, but Eisenhower was the one that Marshall and President Roosevelt chose for the big job—the liberation of Europe.
On this Presidents Day, I agree with George Will on this point: Eisenhower was either a great man who deserves a worthy monument or he wasn’t. If he wasn’t, don’t add a tacky park to downtown Washington. If he was one of the best of his generation, then build something that celebrates that greatness.