Congratulations, Wichita, for renaming the airport for Dwight D. Eisenhower. As one who frequently utilizes the airport to fly to speaking engagements about our native son, I find your decision gratifying. I am impressed with the people who promoted the project and with the professional manner in which the Wichita City Council handled the decision.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this choice. It will attract some national attention in the week ahead. It is high time we generated news that is not another “what’s the matter with Kansas?” story line. Consider four positive impacts of your decision:
• Timing. Wichita has made this move at precisely the right moment in the burgeoning reassessment of the Eisenhower presidency. Three major biographies of Ike were published in 2012. More specialized studies, like my own, are being rapidly produced. While a controversy about the proposed Washington, D.C., memorial has dominated the news, don’t miss the underlying reality: That dispute is over design, not whether Ike deserves the recognition.
• Branding. The renaming, in tandem with the new terminal, will state to the business world that this city is on the move – that Wichita has transcended the self-effacing name it inherited from the Kansas City airport’s renaming in 1972.
• Pride. It is a staple of Kansas culture that we don’t like to brag. We tend to undersell our agricultural, our industrial and, above all, our human products. But there is much that legitimately deserves praise in Wichita. For example, my Texas grandson, whose dream is to go into professional theater, will visit Wichita State University this week. Why? Because, he tells me, Music Theatre of Wichita is one of best programs of its kind in the entire region.
• Spillover effect. Don’t underestimate the collateral impact of the successful effort to rename the airport. This project has brought people together who had not collaborated extensively on community promotion. In my experience, these are forward-looking folks who do their homework. I predict that this new leadership coalition will survive to address other important issues in the city’s future.
So, three cheers, Wichita, and my personal thanks. It will be something special for this old Eisenhower scholar to board a plane at the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Now I will have a special story to tell about Wichita to audiences in places like New York and Washington, D.C.