Amid the monument fury, Trump seeks the “garden” of American heroes

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has a vision for his second term, if he wins one, of establishing a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will honor some of the most prominent figures in the history of the United States, a collection of ” the best Americans will always live. “

His idea, conveyed in a speech Friday night on Mount Rushmore and expanded in an executive order, comes as elected officials and institutions work out whether it is appropriate to continue to honor people, including past presidents, who benefited from slavery or racists betrothed. views, with monuments or buildings and streets that bear his name.

The 30+ feature group includes the Founding Fathers and Presidents, Civil Rights Pioneers and Aviation Innovators, Explorers and Generals.

Absent from Trump’s initial list are Native Americans, Hispanics, or Asian-Americans. The White House and the Department of the Interior declined to comment on how the list was created.

Trump spoke enthusiastically on Saturday about his selections as an “incredible group,” but also noted that “they are just some of the people” he is considering and “are subject to change.”

“But once we make that decision, those big names will be there and will never come down,” Trump said in a speech at his “Salute for America” ​​celebration at the White House to mark Independence Day.

To be sure, the monument is far from a done deal, and Trump’s plan could be thwarted if presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden denies him a second term in November or Congress refuses to allocate funds for the project.

Trump’s list includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., all already represented on or near the National Mall in Washington, along with Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Billy Graham, Douglas MacArthur, Christa McAuliffe, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

But Trump is also seeking to put an ideological stamp on the idea of ​​American greatness with the inclusion of staunch conservative Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice.

Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly condemned the desecration and overthrow of historic statues by protesters during protests over racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We are going to raise the next generation of American patriots,” Trump said at Mount Rushmore. “We will write the next exciting chapter in the American adventure. And we will teach our children to know that they live in a land of legends, that nothing can stop them and that no one can stop them. ”

His executive order says the garden should open before July 4, 2024, and he leaves it to a federal task force to make recommendations on the use of federal money and a proposed site. The order specifies “a site of natural beauty” that is close to at least one major population center.

The order says monuments to former presidents, individuals, and events related to the discovery of America, the founding of the United States, and the abolition of slavery should be given priority. “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying,” according to the order.

The order includes language to make clear that non-US citizens who played an important role in American history could also be honored in the garden.

As examples of individuals who made substantial contributions to the public life of the United States or had a substantial effect on the history of the United States, he quotes: Italian explorer Christopher Columbus; Junipero Serra, a Roman Catholic priest who established Spanish missions in California; and the Marquis de La Fayette, a French officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

A statue of Columbus, who has been criticized for brutal treatment of Native Americans, was removed last week from outside the city hall in Columbus, Ohio. Last month, protesters demolished a Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Some historians say that Serra, who was canonized by the Catholic Church, had a mixed history that included him acting as an agent of the colonization efforts of the Spanish Empire in the 18th century.

Trump struck again on Friday against a “left-wing cultural revolution” that he says teaches American children “that the men and women who built” the country “were not heroes, but villains.”

“The radical view of American history is a web of lies: all perspectives are removed, all virtues are obscured, every motive twisted, every fact distorted, and every flaw magnified until history is purged and it disfigures the record beyond recognition, “Trump said.