Trump Kicks Off Independence Day with History Lesson at Mount Rushmore

Fireworks explode above the Mount Rushmore National Monument during an Independence Day event attended by the US president in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump invoked the history of the four presidents represented on Mount Rushmore on Friday while delivering an address to kick off the Independence Day weekend.

Trump, who is seeking reelection this fall, began his remarks by pledging that his administration would never allow the monument to be “desecrated” by activists waging “a left-wing cultural revolution.” The president, in particular, said that the recent criticism such activists level at Mt. Rushmore is misguided.

Invoking the personal and public accomplishments of the presidents honored on the monument — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt — Trump delivered a history lesson on why they represented the “best of America.”

White House / YouTube

“They were American giants in full flesh and blood. Gallant men, whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known,” Trump said. “Tonight, I will tell you — and most importantly, the youth of our nation — the true stories of these great men.”

Trump continued:

From head to toe, George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people. From a small volunteer force of citizen farmers, he created the Continental Army out of nothing and rallied them to stand against the most powerful military on earth through eight long years. … After forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power, but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen. When called upon again, he presided over the constitutional convention in Philadelphia and was unanimously elected our first president. … When he stepped down after two terms, his former adversary King George called him the greatest man of the age. He remains first in our hearts to this day. For as long as Americans love this land, we will honor and cherish the father of our country, George Washington.

Trump pledged that his administration would not allow the founding father’s place in history “to be removed, abolished, or most of all forgotten.” Similarly, the president invoked the contributions of Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, when arguing that they too had earned their place on the monument:

Thomas Jefferson, the great Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he traveled north to Pennsylvania and brilliantly authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence. He also drafted Virginia’s constitution and conceived and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a model for our cherished First Amendment. After serving as the first secretary of state and then vice president, he was elected to the presidency. He ordered American warriors to crush Barbary pirates. He doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana purchase, and he sent the famous explorers Lewis and Clark into the West on a daring expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He was an architect, an inventor, a diplomat, a scholar, the founder of one of the world’s great universities, and an ardent defender of liberty. Americans will forever admire the author of American freedom.

Abraham Lincoln: The savior of our union was a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin on the American frontier. The first Republican president, he rose to high office from obscurity based on the force and clarity of his anti-slavery convictions. He signed the law that built the transcontinental railroad. He signed the Homestead Act, given to some … ordinary citizens, free land to settle anywhere in the American West. And he led the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from this earth. He served as commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces during our bloodiest war. … Ultimately his determination to preserve our nation, and our union cost him his life. For as long as we live, Americans will uphold and revere the immortal memory of President Abraham Lincoln.

Teddy Roosevelt exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity. He saw the grandeur of America’s mission in the world, and he pursued it with overwhelming energy and zeal. As a lieutenant colonel during the Spanish American War, he led the famous rough riders to defeat the enemy at San Juan Hill. He cleaned up corruption as police commissioner of New York City then served as the governor of New York, vice president, and at 42 years old, became the youngest ever president of the United States. He sent our great new naval fleet around that world to announce America’s arrival as a world power. He gave us many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon. He oversaw the construction of the all inspiring, Panama Canal, and he is the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was American freedom personified. And for that the American people will never relinquish the bold, beautiful and untamed spirit of Theodore Roosevelt.

The speech came on the heels of some progressive activists protesting the existence of the monument, claiming it was built on land stolen from South Dakota’s Native American population.

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