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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 7, 2002
President Dedicates White House Building to President Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
10:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. Well, thank you all very much. And thank you, Susan, for those kind words, and welcome.
I want to thank Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, Administrator Perry, General Hicks, for their kind words. I'm also pleased to have so many special guests who are here. I don't see -- I do see Senator Stevens. I'm so honored that Senator Ted Stevens, who actually worked in the Eisenhower administration, is here. And I want to welcome all the others who worked in this -- in the Eisenhower administration to this dedication ceremony. Welcome.
I also want to welcome General Andrew Goodpaster, Senator Bob Dole, and all the other veterans of World War II. We're pleased to have you here. It's a pleasure to welcome back former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I want to thank members of the United States Congress -- Senator Inouye, Congressman Amo Houghton, Jerry Moran, Jim Ryun, Congressman Steve Horn.
And I, too, want to say how much we appreciate the work of former Senator John Chafee, who introduced the legislation necessary to rename this bill -- this building in honor of Dwight Eisenhower.
And above all, we welcome the Eisenhower family, and send our good wishes to John Eisenhower, who could not be with us today. As the son of a President, myself, I know how proud John must feel, knowing that our country's respect for his father has only increased with the years.
The city of Washington is accustomed to change. But this neighborhood looks much as it did in 1929. If you'd walked down Pennsylvania Avenue 73 years ago, you would have seen the Renwick Building on the corner of 17th Street, looking just as it does now. A few doors down were the Blair and Lee Houses, with gas lamps still out front.
In 1929, Lafayette Square was dominated by a great bronze horse, as it is today, proudly carrying Andrew Jackson. And standing outside this building on a spring morning 73 years ago, you might have seen Dwight Eisenhower pull up in a 1927 Buick and walk up the stairs to his office.
The '20s and '30s were quiet times for our Army and Navy, quiet times when he worked here. But it was in this building that Dwight Eisenhower's reputation began to grow. His immediate supervisor said of him this -- said this of him: "This is the best officer in the Army. When the next war comes, he should go right to the top." These words carried a lot of weight; after all, the man who said them was Douglas MacArthur.
He also worked here for many years in Room 252. There was a time when a visitor to this building might pass in the hallway not only Eisenhower and MacArthur, but the first man commissioned General of the Armies of the United States, John J. Pershing. General Pershing occupied Room 274, a space now used by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Two doors down is an office that Theodore Roosevelt would still recognize as his own from his time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. So would Franklin Roosevelt, who, a generation later, occupied the same office and walked these very same halls. And in between, from 1904 to 1908, William Howard Taft reported to work here as the Secretary of the War. In all, as has been mentioned, seven future Presidents have worked in this building; 25 Presidents have known it.
Harry S. Truman held press conferences in an ornate room two stories high, called the Indian Treaty Room -- although, no Indian treaty has ever been signed there. And it was Truman, himself, who paid a distinctive tribute to this building when a committee suggested it be torn down. He believed we ought to leave it right here. He said, "It's the greatest monstrosity in America."
But it was Eisenhower who decided its fate. He said he rather liked it. And over time, a lot of us have come to like it. The architectural grace of this building will remain a matter of opinion, but its place in history and its place on the skyline of Washington is as safe as can be.
It seems odd that with all the history it contains, this great building went more than a century without a name befitting its dignity. We've solved that problem today, and we've solved it once and for all. This building now bears the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower, not because it was spared from the wrecking ball in his time; not even because he was the first President born in Texas. (Laughter.) His name fits this building because, as a great soldier, a great President, and a good man, Dwight D. Eisenhower served his country with distinction.
People over a certain age will always associate Dwight Eisenhower with a time of strength and a time of stability in America. We think of the '50s, and in the mind's eye we see the President and his fine wife, Mamie. They had lived a military life, moving more than 30 times. And just as GIs in the '50s across America were settling back home, so were the Eisenhowers. As a matter of fact, they would live longer in the White House here than at any other address.
We don't need to idolize the era they represented to see all the good things that were there: millions of growing families and industries and new cities, and the beginnings of the life that we know today.
Had he never become President, Eisenhower would still be known to all as the leader of the forces that liberated a continent from a terrible evil. The turning point of the war was the decision to invade the coast of France. The decision was made by Roosevelt and Churchill; the day and hour were left to General Eisenhower. And a lot of people felt a lot better knowing that it was his call to make.
General Eisenhower understood exactly what risks lay ahead. Had his troops failed to take the beaches, he was going to point a finger straight at himself. Here's what he wrote, in advance: "If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone." Fifty-seven years ago this very day, General Eisenhower reported that the mission of the Allied Force was fulfilled, and the war in Europe was over.
In victory, he was the first to share credit. It was not within his character to do otherwise. As Vice President, Richard Nixon said this about General Eisenhower, President Eisenhower: "He always retained a saving humility." "It was the humility," Nixon said, "not of fear, but of confidence. He walked with the great of the world, and he knew that the great are human. His was the humility of man before God, and before the truth. His was the humility of a man too proud to be arrogant."
In his career, Dwight Eisenhower faced two great crises of the 20th century: a World War that came upon America with a sudden attack, requiring a global response, and a Cold War that tested our patience and resolve to wage a struggle of decades.
In our time, we face elements of both: an enemy that strikes suddenly, and must be pursued across the years. And in this struggle, we know how victory will be gained, because President Eisenhower -- and General Eisenhower -- showed us the way. We will be calm, and confident, and relentless. With the best of America's character, we will defeat America's enemies.
We are proceeding with patience and resolve to overcome this growing danger to the civilized world. NATO, the grand alliance first commanded by General Eisenhower, is part of a new coalition that is making steady progress on every front. Our mission in Afghanistan continues even after we have liberated that country from a brutal regime. We continue to fight al Qaeda terrorists, and we will prevent them from regrouping elsewhere.
We'll deny terrorists the safe havens they need to operate, and choke off their sources of money and supplies. We'll confront dangerous regimes that seek weapons of mass destruction. In this war, we will depend on the alertness of our law enforcement, the diligence of our intelligence operations, and on the skill and valor of the American Armed Forces.
Our military has performed with great daring and courage, and more will be asked of them. I have full confidence, complete confidence, in the men and women who wear our uniform. They've responded in the finest traditions of the American military. Their sense of honor, their devotion to duty, their loyal service to America would all be recognized by the five-star general and President we remember today. The skill and determination and optimism of Dwight Eisenhower are alive in the American Armed Forces, and that spirit will bring us to victory.
The General was one of six sons raised by Ida and David Eisenhower in the prairie town of Abilene, Kansas. They raised good men, but destiny chose this one. His whole life shows the power of one man's goodness and integrity to shape great events. He brought permanent honor to his family name, and that name now brings honor to this grand building. It's one more mark of this country's respect, and we offer it today with great affection, and lasting gratitude.
God bless. (Applause.)
END 10:33 A.M. EDT