What do Walt Disney, Whitney Houston, Dolley Madison and Frederick Douglass have in common? They’re part of an extensive list of 244 people that President Trump says he wants to honor as statues in the proposed “National Garden of American Heroes.”
With just two days left before he leaves office, though, the venture is highly unlikely to ever be realized by him or President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Trump released an executive order Monday, building on an earlier executive order he signed in July, touting his plans for the garden.
“The chronicles of our history show that America is a land of heroes. … the gates of a beautiful new garden will soon open to the public where the legends of America’s past will be remembered,” Trump wrote in Monday’s order.
“Across this Nation,” the order continues, “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.”
It adds: “On its grounds, the devastation and discord of the moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism. This is the American way. When the forces of anti-Americanism have sought to burn, tear down, and destroy, patriots have built, rebuilt, and lifted up. That is our history.”
In mentioning “discord of the moment,” Trump makes no mention of his own supporters who violently stormed the Capitol earlier this month as Congress was counting electoral votes.
The earlier order laid out a vision for a garden to “depict historically significant Americans” with a target date for public access of July 4, 2026. The location for the park had not yet been decided.
In the July order, Trump established an “Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes”, chaired by the secretary of the interior. His Monday order says the task force is “prepared to move forward.”
The list of those Trump wants to honor is wide-ranging; it includes past politicians, musicians, artists, astronauts, movie stars, philosophers, athletes and other historical figures. Trump’s order says the garden would be paid for and maintained by the Department of the Interior.
A small sampling of the names includes: Louis Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Crispus Attucks, Clara Barton, Ingrid Bergman, Irving Berlin, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Carnegie, Julia Child, Nat King Cole, Christopher Columbus, Walt Disney, Aretha Franklin, Theodor Geisel aka “Dr. Seuss”, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barry Goldwater, Woody Guthrie, Alfred Hitchcock, Whitney Houston, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Inouye, Amelia Earhart, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Paul Revere, Jackie Robinson, Nikola Tesla, Harriet Tubman and Alex Trebek.
“In short, each individual has been chosen for embodying the American spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love,” the order says of the criteria to be included.
Trump first spoke about the plan to establish an outdoor park holding statues of the “greatest Americans to ever live” during a trip to Mount Rushmore in July, in the midst of social unrest over the police killings of unarmed Black men. Various monuments and statues to members of the Confederacy had been torn down by the public or removed by government officials, a move that angered the president.
“To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance,” he said in his July executive order. “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 reiterated his idea for the garden during a campaign stop in Muskegon, Mich., in October.
“It’s going to be called The National Garden of American Heroes. Isn’t that nice?” he said to applause. “Now you know me from private life, so I’m thinking about calling it the Trump National Garden of American [heroes].”