President Trump continues to fight back in the war on statues. Yesterday he signed an executive order creating a task force for building and rebuilding monuments and ordering the creation of a statuary park called the National Garden of American Heroes.
The executive order reads as follows:
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. Since the time of our founding, Americans have raised monuments to our greatest citizens… 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.
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.
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. Some local governments have responded by taking their monuments down. Among others, monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, 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 vandalized, destroyed, 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. 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.
It is not yet clear where the National Garden of American Heroes will be located or when it will open, although Trump’s goal is to have it opened before July 4, 2026. Funding and administrative support for the garden will be provided by the Department of the Interior. The garden will enable the public to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and learn about history. Trump specifies in his order that the statues should be realistic, as opposed to abstract.
Trump provides the following list of specific people to be included in the garden: “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.”
He also provides the following list of more general categories of people who should be considered for inclusion: “the Founding Fathers, those who fought for the abolition of slavery or participated in the underground railroad, heroes of the United States Armed Forces, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, civil rights leaders, missionaries and religious leaders, pioneers and explorers, police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty, labor leaders, advocates for the poor and disadvantaged, opponents of national socialism or international socialism, former Presidents of the United States and other elected officials, judges and justices, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, artists, and teachers.”
And importantly, he points out: “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.” Amen to that.
In addition to the garden, this executive order also directs funding towards the commissioning of new statues to be installed in cities and towns where statues of historically significant Americans have recently been removed or destroyed.
My only criticism is that no Confederate historical figures are included in the list. Hopefully a few of them will make it into the garden as well. Interestingly, the executive order mentions the possibility that the task force might “encourage and accept the donation or loan of statues by States, localities, civic organizations, businesses, religious organizations, and individuals.” Does this mean that statues that cities and towns have decided to remove might find a new home in the garden? I hope so, because it is a shame for beautiful, magnificent statues to languish in storage instead of being on display where the public can appreciate them.