Sen. Pat Roberts marched to the podium to deliver final remarks at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial’s groundbreaking Thursday.
The Kansas Republican reached into his right pocket and pulled out a folded slip of white paper. Across the back, scribbled in bold black Sharpie, was one word: “PERMIT.”
“Ladies and gentleman,” Roberts said,“right here in my hand, I have the building permit from the National Park Service.” Roughly 600 people clad in dresses and suits roared with applause from their seats beneath a sprawling white tent on the northeast corner of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building plaza.
“At last, at last we’re building at last,” Roberts said.
The commission has set a target date to complete and dedicate the memorial on May 8, 2020, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in the Second World War.
Every hurdle has been cleared after the National Park Service on Monday issued the Eisenhower Memorial Commission a permit to begin construction.
The project received final stamps of approval in recent months from the various commissions that assess public arts proposals in the capital.
The Department of Education gave the Eisenhower Memorial design its blessing in September. The four-acre park will hug the department building’s north facade along Maryland Avenue.
Perhaps most importantly, the Eisenhower family is pleased with the design and has been ready to move forward with construction for months.
“My family and I can think of no better legacy for Dwight Eisenhower than to have this memorial serve as a reminder of the simple virtues he espoused,” Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan Eisenhower said Thursday.
The monument will boast a roughly 25,000-square-foot transparent tapestry of steel cables woven along a metal framework.
The tapestry comprises 600 3-by-15-foot panels and will span the length and width of nearly five basketball courts stacked baseline to baseline.
It will feature a peacetime portrayal of the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, where on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, two Army Ranger battalions captured and defended a German gun battery overlooking Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, the American sector of the invasion.
The park will also be home to three 9-foot-tall bronze statues of Eisenhower — as a young boy growing up in the American heartland, as the supreme commander of the Allied forces in World War II and as the 34th American president — accompanied by stone blocks etched with Eisenhower quotes reflecting each of the three periods.
Lawmakers from both parties have signaled their support for the project’s go-ahead. Seven others, including Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Michigan’s Gary Peters, joined Roberts at the groundbreaking Thursday.
“There is broad bicameral, bipartisan support for the Eisenhower Memorial,” Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, the ranking Democrat on the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said in October.
“Alongside the Eisenhower Commission’s private fundraising efforts, I am confident that the project will have the federal funding it needs to be completed,” she said.
Correction 3:26 p.m. | An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission had not yet received a final permit to begin construction.