Scott’s Column: Mt. Rushmore
September 28 2017
This summer our family vacationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Grandma came along and so did the puppy, so it was an old fashioned family vacation.
I honestly didn’t expect to be that impressed by Mount Rushmore. I would have told you I’d seen too many pictures of it. And heard that many people think it is smaller than they anticipated. Also that other than looking at a carved mountain, there’s not much to do there. But Mount Rushmore exceeded my expectations. I was not prepared for the celebration of American ideals embodied in the national monument and the accompanying exhibits. Or how, through my visit, I would be inspired again by those ideals.
First, there’s the stunning natural setting, which reminds you of the grandeur and beauty of our land. There’s the sheer artistic endeavor of carving a mountain, which reminds you of our daring and our creative power when we commit ourselves to possibilities.
There’s the experience of walking down the plaza through all the flags with an array of your fellow citizens, a surprising communal moment.
And ultimately, you reflect on the lives and achievements of each of the presidents. Fully aware of their failings and limitations, you also admire what was noble and good about them. Washington’s responsible use of power. Jefferson’s inspiring words of liberty and democracy. Lincoln’s sacrifice for justice. Roosevelt’s conservation work.
In the store Sebastian shopped for a book on the presidents. It became one of his favorites that we read often.
Our history contains both good and bad. And in the Black Hills you are reminded of both, as the land was stolen from the Lakota and the region’s history is traumatized by that violence. A responsible use of our history learns from both the good and the bad. And at any moment we choose what we want to highlight, what from our history we want to shape our moral culture going forward.
And so I will teach my son the great democratic ideals and the republican virtues that I believe will make him a stronger, better person.