President Trump, on July 3, issued the Executive Order on Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes. It came on the same day the president spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Under the watchful gaze of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, the current president described his vision for what he called a National Garden of American Heroes.
The president’s order reads in part:
“To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance. These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn. It is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence, and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.”
The order also states the new artwork must be “lifelike or realistic.”
A Controversial Background
Trump promised that Mount Rushmore would never be “defaced” or “desecrated.” This came against a background of recent accusations that the famous American landmark is racist. On Twitter, The New York Times linked the monument’s sculptor to the Ku Klux Klan and reminded us that two of the presidents memorialized in granite were slaveholders. While he signed an order protecting federal statues, President Trump said that he could understand individual monuments being taken down, although he believed this should be done legally. Mount Rushmore itself appears safe for now as the state’s Governor Kristi Noem vowed to protect the South Dakota monument as long as she holds office.
South Dakota — A Good Place to Plant the Garden
Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected the four men on the mount for different and vital periods in the nation’s history. Washington represents the birth of a free country. Jefferson is an icon of the rapid growth of the colonies. Lincoln was chosen as the American to preserve the new nation, which, without his wisdom, could have perished after the Civil War. By the turn of the century, Roosevelt was a crucial figure in the social and environmental development of the United States.
Some other Americans on the list are, perhaps, a bit more familiar: Martin Luther King, Jr., former President Ronald Reagan, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Tubman.
What better place for a garden of American greats than under the gaze of those four men carved into Mount Rushmore?
Trump’s order explains: “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.”