President Donald Trump announced at Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day that he has signed an executive order to establish a vast outdoor park featuring statues of great Americans to “honor those who came before” and inspire the next generation.
“I am announcing the creation of a new monument to the giants of our past. I am signing an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” Trump said in a speech at Mount Rushmore as part of July 4 celebrations with thousands of people at the South Dakota landmark.
“Let us go forward united in our purpose and rededicated in our resolve,” the president added. “We will raise the next generation of American patriots, we will write the next thrilling chapter of 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 hold them down. They will know that in America, you can do anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.”
The new National Garden will come as part Trump’s executive order on Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes, which says that the site be composed of statues commemorating notable American figures including John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.
The order stipulates that the site be opened for public access before July 4, 2026—the 250th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence.
A task force will nominate potential sites for the location of the National Garden and other options related to its creation, and submit a report to Trump within 60 days of the order.
The statues should depict “historically significant Americans” who have contributed positively to America throughout its history. The term “historically significant American” is defined in the order as “an individual who was, or became, an American citizen and was a public figure who made substantive contributions to America’s public life or otherwise had a substantive effect on America’s history.”
The term also includes figures who lived before the American Revolution and were not American citizens but made “substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of” the United States, such as Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra, and the Marquis de La Fayette.
The statue or work of art should also be a “lifelike or realistic representation of” the individual being depicted, and not “an abstract or modernist representation,” the order reads.
Destruction of Statues
Trump in the executive order cited the recent wave of statue-toppling and acts of vandalism that have occurred across the nation amid protests following the death of George Floyd.
“To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance. In recent weeks, in the midst of protests across America, many monuments have been vandalized or destroyed,” Trump said in his order. “Some local governments have responded by taking their monuments down.”
He noted that monuments to key figures in American history—Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant—as well as monuments to leaders of the abolitionist movement, the first all-volunteer African American regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War, and American soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars, have been destroyed, vandalized, or removed.
“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,” Trump said. “My administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory. In the face of such acts of destruction, 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.”
Trump in his order outlined the importance of building monuments and the purpose behind his executive order.
“America owes its present greatness to its past sacrifices. Because the past is always at risk of being forgotten, monuments will always be needed to honor those who came before,” he said in the order.
“In our public parks and plazas, we have erected statues of great Americans who, through acts of wisdom and daring, built and preserved for us a republic of ordered liberty,” he said. “These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal. They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten.”
“These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our nation. These monuments express our noblest ideals: respect for our ancestors, love of freedom, and striving for a more perfect union.
“They are works of beauty, created as enduring tributes. In preserving them, we show reverence for our past, we dignify our present, and we inspire those who are to come. To build a monument is to ratify our shared national project.”