A controversial sculpture of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin drew international outrage when it was unveiled earlier this month at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Now, the D-Day Memorial Foundation faces opposition right in its own backyard.
The Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to object to the inclusion of the bust at the memorial. The board's action echoes an online petition signed by nearly 2,500 people calling for the sculpture's removal.
Vice Chairman Annie Pollard told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Bedford would be looked upon in a negative light if the bust is not removed.
The memorial’s purpose is to honor D-Day veterans, she said. “I don’t see where Stalin fits in,” she told the newspaper.
The board supports the D-Day Memorial -- just not the Stalin bust. In fact, the 2010-2011 county budget includes a planned $23,750 donation to the memorial.
Perhaps that’s why the D-Day Memorial Foundation's new president, Robin Reed, wanted the board to delay before taking an official position on the sculpture.
Reed wrote a letter to the county supervisors asking them to postpone action to give him more time to analyze the Stalin bust.
"It was just a short note that I sent just asking that they postpone passing a resolution until I had a chance to review all the material because I'd been on site as president exactly one day," Reed said."They elected not to do that. But I certainly can understand that the County Board of Supervisors has a responsibility to constituents."
Still, that’s more than his predecessor ever did. Retired Col. William McIntosh, past president of the D-Day Memorial Foundation, insisted the foundation took all the time it needed to analyze the bust before it was installed.
“This was a decision that was taken by the foundation years ago when the sculpture program was approved,” McIntosh said weeks ago in an interview. “This wasn’t something that was whipped together for the 66th anniversary of D-Day.”
McIntosh said foundation leaders anticipated public criticism. “You’re not going to make everybody happy when you do this,” he said. Reed, too, is aware of public concern, he said in his letter. But, unlike McIntosh, Reed plans to address it.
"This has given us the chance to have some public discourse," Reed said. "We're going to listen to everyone who has an opinion about the placement of the bust, but we're also going to talk to leading scholars and educators in the field, as well. As an educator, I think this is a good opportunity to have that discussion."
Among the bust’s many critics is Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
“A bust of Joseph Stalin has no place in a memorial whose purpose is to salute the brave soldiers who made D-Day a vital victory in the crusade for freedom,” Edwards said in a statement.
Another detractor is Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who represents Bedford. The congressman sponsored a bill authorizing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to study the feasibility of designating the National D-Day Memorial as a unit of the National Park System, but Perriello opposes the presence of the bust.
“I believe the inclusion of the Stalin bust on the memorial’s grounds is beyond the foundation’s mission and even inconsistent with it,” Perriello wrote in a letter to the foundation. “I am also concerned that the ongoing controversy could negatively impact our shared goal of having the memorial designated as part of the park service.”
The rebukes don't daunt Reed.
"Here we are, on the eve of the Fourth of July and celebrating the creation of our country, our system of democracy," Reed said. "I don't know that there's a better example of that than this. We hear all the time that there's apathy toward our country and toward American history. This is certainly proving that that's not the case. I feel somewhat encouraged by that."
Korbe is a reporter for the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
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