On this day in 1925, Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located in South Dakota on a mountain that was originally called Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Sioux. The construction of Mount Rushmore began in October 1927 and ended in October 1941. After Congress authorized the mountain memorial, President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, insisted that in addition to Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat be portrayed.
The sculptor in charge of the project, Gutzon Borglum, selected Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to join Washington. In the process of construction, 450,000 tons of rock were blasted off the mountainside.
Less than one year before the completion of Mt. Rushmore in March 1941, Gutzon Borglum died from an embolism. Borglum’s son, Lincoln Borglum, continued his father’s work until it was completed on October 31, 1941.
One aspect of Mt. Rushmore that Borglum envisioned was never completed. Borglum wanted an inscription in words to accompany the faces of the American presidents. Specifically, he wanted 500 words telling the history of the United States written on the front of the mountain. Borglum wanted these words written not only in English but also in Latin and Sanskrit. In this way Mt. Rushmore would become a new Rosetta Stone, giving future archaeologists an explanation of the history behind the people depicted there.
Initially, Borglum asked President Calvin Coolidge to write the 500 words, but Borglum rejected Coolidge’s submission. A national essay contest was then held in 1934 with more than 100,000 entries. The contest’s winner was a Nebraska student named William Andrew Burkett. Unfortunately just as he had rejected Coolidge’s entry, Borglum also rejected Burkett’s essay. As a result, the mountain was left without inscribed words (1).
Today’s Challenge: Your Rock Stars
Who are the four key individuals within a single field, such as science, philosophy, rock-n-roll, movies, literature, or baseball, who you would enshrine on your Mt. Rushmore? Mt. Rushmore has become a kind of metaphor for the idea of enshrining four specific individuals as the pillars within a certain field. Today, for example, most students of American history recognize Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt among the most important United States presidents. Select a field that you know well, and brainstorm the names of people you consider pillars in their field of expertise. Once you have selected your four, write a brief rationale for each, explaining what made these individuals’ contributions so significant. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
Quotation of the Day: True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation. -George Washington