After a 17-year odyssey through ideas, designs, redirections and reconsiderations, our national capital finally could be getting a memorial to former President Dwight Eisenhower.
Last week, we stopped by the dedication site at 4th Street and Maryland Avenue SW, just across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum. The four-acre site will feature large murals depicting Normandy and other aspects of the 34th president’s life — Normandy, of course, from World War II when Eisenhower was the supreme commander of Allied Forces.
“The brilliant military strategist who defeated the Nazis and led the Allies to victory in Europe” was the description from former television host Greta Van Susteren, who emceed the program.
“He wasn’t just another president,” said history buff and former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who wasn’t part of the program but was there out of respect for Eisenhower. “This guy changed the course of history.”
As president, Eisenhower’s eight years included legislation creating the federal interstate highway system and NASA, both crucial to the expansion of American commerce and knowledge, as well as the Voice of America and the Federal Aviation Administration. Eisenhower in 1957 also sent federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., to enforce new integration laws.
The Eisenhower Commission, which is erecting the memorial, passed out buttons that read “I Still Like Ike,” a nice play on his presidential campaign slogans.
The Eisenhower memorial is due to open in 2020 — the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, or VE-Day.
The Notebook also offers our second salute to the Word War I Memorial. It also has taken a while to get underway.
But on Thursday, there will be a groundbreaking at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the White House. The old Pershing Park is being rehabbed for a better and more accessible memorial to the first Great War. (It’s at 11 a.m. if you’re reading this soon enough and want to go.)
The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is hosting the ground-breaking. The commission was created in 2013 by Congress. It’s being supported by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago. Learn more at ww1cc.org.
■ More history. You might remember that little flap last winter when new President Donald Trump seemed to imply that he thought abolitionist Frederick Douglass was still alive.
President Trump was meeting with African-American supporters for breakfast during African-American History Month last February.
As CNN reported:
“I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Rev. King, so many other things,” Trump said. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Douglass died in 1895.
Then-press secretary Sean Spicer said he believed Trump’s “more and more” comment wasn’t intended to suggest Douglass was alive. But many took it that way.
Fast-forward to last week.
President Trump signed legislation from D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and others to create a bicentennial commission to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth.
“Our Nation rightly honors the life of Mr. Douglass, a former slave who became an outstanding orator and a leader of the abolitionist movement,” the proclamation reads. “All Americans have much to learn from the life and writings of Mr. Douglass, and I look forward to working with the Commission to celebrate the achievements of this great man.”
After the legislation’s signing, Del. Norton was delighted.
“Commemorative commissions for individuals are understandably rare, but there is perhaps none more deserving than Douglass,” she said in a released statement. “We in the District of Columbia are particularly proud he called D.C. home for most of his adult life. His home here in Southeast is an official national historic site and one of our city’s treasures, visited by thousands of tourists and residents annually.”
■ Update — Carol Schwartz. We wrote last week about Schwartz’s new, 754-page book about her extraordinary life. In it, she opines on many issues past and present. And that presented something of a problem for her, as we noted, because Schwartz has been a member of the city’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
We wondered if her first-person account might raise questions about her ability to serve on the board without doubts regarding her impartiality.
Well, wonder no more. In a news release on Monday, Schwartz announced her resignation.
“In these few days since I released my book, at signing events, I have found it often hard to answer questions about present-day topics because of my membership on the Board, and have stated so,” Schwartz wrote.
She said she believes her vast experience — as a volunteer, school board member, council member and five-time candidate for mayor — gave her the knowledge to understand ethical issues. She said she wrote the book without consulting the board and didn’t want even one person to question her value to it.
“So now,” she wrote, “wanting to again err on the side of caution for my own reputation’s sake as well as that of the Board, I — without consulting with anyone — am choosing to resign.
“I will miss the Board and its mission, but I feel leaving is the best decision at this time. And I am now looking forward to being able to answer any question about anything, past or present, with honesty and without jeopardy.”
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.