The Mount Rushmore National Memorial sculpture, carved in the Black Hills section of South Dakota, attracts nearly 3 million visitors each year. Workers used dynamite and jackhammers to remove more than 450,000 tons of rock to create the 60-foot high granite faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The site has been in the news. First, Native American advocates have long raised questions about the ownership of the land, which had been granted in perpetuity to the Lakota people. More recently, some have also raised questions about recognizing slave owners regardless of their role in founding our country. And then earlier this month, aides to President Trump allegedly raised the question about adding Trump’s likeness to the monument, making him the fifth president honored. Trump denied the accusation on Twitter, but said the idea sounded good to him.
With all the hubbub, I’ve been thinking about the monument. If we were creating the monument today, selecting from the modern presidents, who would I select. Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose George Washington because he was our nation’s founding father; Thomas Jefferson because he authored the Declaration of Independence and represented westward expansion with the signing of the Louisiana Purchase; Theodore Roosevelt because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation; and Abraham Lincoln because he led the country through the Civil War and was responsible for the end of slavery.
My mind went quickly to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Yes, I know three Democrats and one lone Republican . . . before anyone gets all testy, calling me a liberal wannabe, my voting has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with great communicators.
- Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” President John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address in January 1961.
- “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” President Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.
- “The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it. Between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past. Between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists.” President Bill Clinton’s speech in 1997 on Bosnia.
- “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” President Barak Obama on campaign trail in 2008.
The Mount Rushmore of lists
These are all well and good, but what if we expanded Rushmore to include other things, let’s say the Mount Rushmore of Baseball, you’d have to include Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, and Cy Young, right? Yes, Pete Rose probably lied and cheat, but you can never take away his accomplishments. My list, my Mount Rushmore. Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Randy Jackson, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt, Roberto Clemente, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, and a whole slew of other names, well, better luck next time.
Fox Sports had a story earlier this year making the case for the NFL’s Mount Rushmore to be quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Jerry Rice, linebacker Lawrence Taylor, and running back Walter Payton. I would love to quibble with this list, God knows that I’m no fan on Tom Brady and it feels sacrilegious to not include Coaches Vince Lombardi or George Halas, two men who started it all, but it’s hard to argue with this list.
Basketball is easy. Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Dr. J. – Julius Erving, and Magic Earvin Johnson would top my list. Again, my list, my choice.
Taking this list thing a step further. My top American Writers would be Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Earnest Hemingway. If we were really counting authors—American or across the globe—who I actually like, it would be: JK Rowling, Maya Angelou, Mitch Albom, and J.R.R. Tolkien. (Surprise, surprise, no Stephen King. Truth be told, he scares the bejesus out of me. In another life, I probably would have included John Grisham.)
My Mount Rushmore of TV shows, comedy or drama, would include MASH, The Sopranos, The West Wing, and Seinfeld (with a runner-up nod to Cheers, Hill Street Blues, Band of Brothers, NYPD Blue, ER, Breaking Bad, Homicide, Friends, The Office, Barney Miller, Archie Bunker, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones, The Simpsons, and Law and Order.
And the Oscar goes to . . .
The Mount Rushmore of movies is another tough, but easy list: The Godfather, The Star Wars franchise, Casablanca, and The Shawshank Redemption. If my wife is reading this blog, I would probably take off Shawshank and include The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music or An Affair to Remember or North by Northwest. If she isn’t reading this list, I would get rid of Casablanca and include Saving Private Ryan, The Great Escape, Goodfellas, or Jaws.
It gets tougher picking Best sports movies: Hoosiers, Rocky, Remember the Titans, For the Love of the Game (over Bull Durham or Field of Dreams.) And don’t even think about suggesting Rudy. Take your Notre Dame loving fantasy and go pound sand. And yes, look it up, Rudy was offsides.
The best guys, guy movies of all time: Caddyshack, The Godfather again, Blazing Saddles, and Dirty Harry with lots of runner-ups including every Will Farrell movie, especially Anchorman, The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club, Die Hard, Terminator, Pulp Fiction, Animal House, and Gladiator.
I could go on and on, but I’ll end here since I’m sure I’ve broken one of the biggest rules of blog writing by writing about politics, religion and sports: You’re bound to upset someone.