One of the nation’s renowned historic sites is Mount Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It took 14 years to carve Mount Rushmore, cost just under a million dollars, and has nearly three million visitors a year. The four presidents whose faces are carved in this famous mountain are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The “Father of Mount Rushmore,” Doane Robinson, wanted to create an attraction that would draw people from all over the country to his state. He met with artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1924 and 1925 to discuss the project. Robinson then proceeded to work with President Calvin Coolidge, Congressman William Williamson, and Senator Peter Norbeck to gain support in Congress for the funding necessary to proceed. Congress agreed to match up to $250,000 to finance the endeavor.
Carving began in late 1927. Over 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved using dynamite, removing approximately 450,000 tons of rock. The finer details were done by jackhammer and hand chisels. In 1933, Mount Rushmore became part of the National Park Services. Borglum continued to work on the impressive monument until his death in 1941. The monument was dedicated on October 31, 1941.
The Four Presidents on Mount Rushmore are…
George Washington (1732-1799), our first president, is the most prominent figure on the mountain. Washington, considered the “Father of our Country” led colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain. Washington fought to insure our democracy. Today, that democracy is being threatened by extreme conservative ideology and radical politicians who want to serve only the elite at the expense of the masses. I wonder if Washington was on the ballot today, would he be elected?
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), our third president, purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. This land cost $15 million dollars and doubled the size of America. He authored the Declaration of Independence and laid the foundation for our democracy. Currently, organizations like Citizens’ United choose to circumvent Jefferson’s democratic process by allowing big donors to buy elections.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), our 16th president, was determined to abolish slavery and preserve the union during the Civil War. He wanted our country to remain united and help African Americans get more rights. Unfortunately, today his Republican Party sees the country and the treatment of African Americans differently than him. They want to take rights away from them, including suppressing their right to vote. Lincoln would never win the nomination of his party in 2016.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th president, provided extraordinary leadership as the country entered the economic growth and challenges of the 20th century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal that linked the east and the west. He was known as the “trust buster” for his tireless efforts to end large corporate monopolies and championed the rights of the common man. Today his Republican Party fights against laborers, women, raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work for men and women. Do you think he would be nominated in 2016? If so, do you think Roosevelt would accept the nomination and represent the current Republican Party values?
Who do you think Doane Robinson would have chosen for “Mount Rushmore” if it were being sculpted today? Do you think there are other presidents who are Mount Rushmore worthy?
I can think of several presidents who didn’t change the world but, accomplished a lot during their term. Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). This act improved working standards by eliminating unfair competitive practices. It improved the workplace by creating uniform labor rules and business procedures including the minimum wage. The Fair Labor Standards Act eliminated unfair exploitation of children by establishing labor laws. FDR was also responsible for abolishing prohibition, creating the FDIC, and crafting the Civil Works Program which put many unemployed people to work repairing roads, parks, airports and other structures. Obama’s job program incorporated many of these work programs that would have spurred our economy as it did in FDR days, but the Republicans blocked it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s greatest single achievement was signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The Interstate System has been called the Greatest Public Works Project in History. It changed America by connecting millions of motorists by roadways, generating construction jobs, and providing better transportation for goods and services.
Lyndon B. Johnson was credit with creating the “Great Society” legislation, which included laws that upheld civil rights, public broadcasting, environmental protection, aid to education, and the eradication of poverty. He tackled poverty, specifically, by creating Head Start, food stamps, Work Study, Medicare, and Medicaid. He established the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts to support humanists and artists. He also signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In addition, Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, the first African American, to the Supreme Court.
John F. Kennedy asked Congress for $7-9 billion to fund a space program that would put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade. While he didn’t live to see it, his dream became a reality in 1969. In a delicate diplomat maneuver, Kennedy avoided a potential nuclear war with Cuba and Russia by establishing a naval blockade around Cuba. He also established the Peace Corp where 210,000 volunteers have served in more than 135 countries.
Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War and lessened communism‘s quest for world domination. He stood resolute against the Soviet Union, telling Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” in Berlin. He developed “Reagonomics” which value is fiercely debated between fiscally conservative Republicans and fiscally responsible Democrats. After cutting taxes numerous times, Reagan discovered that policy created deficits rather than spurring the economy. Additionally, he reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another 25 years, fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who illegally went on strike, and appointed the first women, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court.
If a fifth president was added to Mount Rushmore, who do you think it should be?