On Monday, President Donald Trump released his list of statues for the National Garden of American Heroes — a fitting and powerful response to the wave of vandalism against statues of American heroes following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
“Across this Nation, belief in the greatness and goodness of America has come under attack in recent months and years by a dangerous anti-American extremism that seeks to dismantle our country’s history, institutions, and very identity,” Trump warned in his executive order.
“The heroes of 1776 have been desecrated, with statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin vandalized and toppled. The dead who gave their lives to end slavery and save the Union during the Civil War have been dishonored, with monuments to Abraham Lincoln, Hans Christian Heg, and the courageous 54th Regiment left damaged and disfigured. The brave warriors who saved freedom from Nazi fascism have been disgraced with a memorial to World War II veterans defaced with the hammer and sickle of Soviet communism,” Trump lamented.
Indeed, while the attacks on statues began with Confederate monuments, vandals defaced and toppled monuments commemorating America’s heroes, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Then came Mahatma Gandhi, Union General Ulysses S. Grant, black Union soldiers, and freed slave Frederick Douglass. Vandals even attacked a monument to 9/11 firefighters and painted a statue of Jesus black. Cities began removing statues of Christopher Columbus in the lead-up to Columbus Day.
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The president framed his National Garden as the fitting “answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life. … When the forces of anti-Americanism have sought to burn, tear down, and destroy, patriots have built, rebuilt, and lifted up.”
He released a comprehensive list (below) of every figure who will receive a statue in the garden. Particularly noteworthy figures include:
American Founders: President John Adams, Samuel Adams, Charles Carroll (the lone Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence), Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Caesar Rodney, and George Washington.
Notable Founding-era figures: Marquis de Lafayette, Crispus Attucks (who died in Boston Massacre), Nathan Hale, Betsy Ross, Patrick Henry, Francis Scott Key, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, painter Charles Willson Peale, and Paul Revere.
Pre-Founding Figures: Christopher Columbus, William Penn (after whom Pennsylvania is named), Junipero Serra, and John Winthrop.
Abolitionists: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass.
Civil Rights leaders: Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks,
Artists: Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Inventors: Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Colt, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Johns Hopkins, Edwin Hubble, Samuel Morse, Norman Borlaug, and Nikola Tesla.
Explorers and adventurers: Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill Cody, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark.
Native Americans: Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Sacagawea, and Tecumseh.
Novelists and poets: James Fennimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Presidents: Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight David Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Harry S. Truman.
Soldiers: Desmond Doss (WWII soldier), Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall (soldier to Army Chief of Staff during WWII), George S. Patton Jr., Matthew Ridgway, and Alvin C. York.
Astronauts: Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.
Conservative authors: William F. Buckley, Jr., Whittaker Chambers, Milton Friedman, and Russell Kirk.
Historic baseball players: Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Babe Ruth.
Supreme Court justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall, and Antonin Scalia.
Screen giants: Charlton Heston, Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Hope, Alex Trebek, and John Wayne.
Pastors: Jonathan Edwards and Billy Graham.
Iconic American women: Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Day, Amelia Earhart, Clare Boothe Luce, and Annie Oakley.
These heroes represent key features of American history and culture. Each of them belongs in the National Garden of American Heroes.
Trump is correct: Celebrating America’s heroes is a fitting response to the tragic attacks on America’s memory over the summer. Not only did rioters vandalize and topple statues but The New York Times launched the “1619 Project” to redefine American history, claiming that the arrival of some slaves in Jamestown in 1619 was the “true founding” of America, rather than the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This narrative paints America as fundamentally racist and oppressive.
While the United States has not always lived up to its ideals, the men and women on Trump’s list represent America’s attempts to live up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence. Here’s hoping incoming President Joe Biden doesn’t block the construction of this important monument to America’s past.