Jonathan, Anna, and I headed out west for a short vacation last week. Our real reason for heading to the Black Hills of South Dakota was to see Christina, who is spending her summer at the Black Hills Playhouse as a tech intern. We hadn’t been able to hug her since May, and we were missing her sweet face.
We stopped at a lot of the typical touristy places, and had fun. Seeing those sights with your 20-something offspring is much different than with your 2-something offspring. We stayed in Wall, SD the first night, so we were just over an hour away from our hotel in Keystone, SD. We arrived early enough that we went straight to Mount Rushmore.
The monument was beautiful. We had been here when the girls were in elementary school, so we knew a little about the area, and had anticipated the view. We were not disappointed!
We went through the museum under the observation area, and decided to sit in on the 14 minute film about the making of the memorial. This is where the “yeah, yeah, we’ve seen this before” turned into “wow, did you know that?” and “I wish I could get a copy of all the quotes!”
Maybe it is the times we are living in. Maybe it’s the climate of me, me, me. Maybe it is the feeling of disconnect between neighbors. Whatever the reason, I was struck by the patriotism of Gutzlon Borglum, and the reasons he gave for selecting those particular four presidents.
He selected Washington because he was the father of our country. He was not worried about his political ambitions. He was worried about building a foundation for a young country that would stand the test of time.
Jefferson was selected to represent the growth of our country. President Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase, and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition.
Lincoln represents the preservation of our country, after he was able to reunite the United States after the Civil War. Borglum greatly admired Lincoln, and made many pieces of artwork about him.
President Theodore Roosevelt helped to make the Panama Canal a reality. He also orchestrated peace between countries, establishing the United States as a world power. 200 million acres of National Parks were set aside during his presidency. His presence on Mount Rushmore represents development of our nation.
The story behind the sculpting, the selection, and the accomplishment of the monument is very educational. As we were leaving Mount Rushmore, Jonathan overheard someone talking about the evening lighting ceremony. We thought that sounded neat, so we decided we would come back the next night (parking is $11 per car, good for the rest of the year, so we could go as many times as our hearts desired).
We had no idea what to expect. We did know that we should get there early, and I’m glad we did. The amphitheater was full by the time the ceremony started.
The ceremony began with a 10 minute talk by a park ranger. She talked about the memorial, sharing quotes from each of the presidents that were represented on the memorial. After her talk, we watched a short film about the presidents and the carving of the mountain. It was very patriotic. The film ended with the singing of America the Beautiful. It was very dark at this point, but as we looked at the flag, during the song, we noticed the lights were starting to shine on the faces. By the time the song had ended, the faces were fully lit. That was my first set of goosebumps. Then, all the veterans were invited forward to assist with the lowering of the flag ceremony. This may have been the first time my eyes leaked. The 75 or so men and women on the stage were given a standing ovation. Most people sang the National Anthem…I was a little too choked up to get the words out.
After the flag was lowered and properly folded, each of the veterans introduced themselves and their branch of service. My eyes may have leaked a little at the presenting of the flag to the park ranger.
When the ceremony was done for the night, I couldn’t help but think about what this monument means, and how important it is to remember the ideals and sacrifices these men had made in order for me to be able to live in a country where I am free to worship how I want, free to make the choices I do, and free to help others has I see fit.
These men weren’t looking out just for themselves or their political aspirations. They were more concerned about their fellow Americans, and the country they led. They were led by the people, for the people. President Washington refused to be crowned king, because then America wouldn’t have the freedoms they longed for.
I left the ceremony thinking that every single American should be given the opportunity to attend the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore. Every Senator, Representative, and Presidential candidate should be reminded about the principles that our country was founded on in the Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Days later, as I sit at the computer in the comfort of my home, trying to put into words the emotions we felt, my eyes may have leaked a little.