Feb 15

Mount Rushmore – South Dakota

Mount Rushmore Mount Rushmore National Memorial is an American Icon just like the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge.  While traveling to Yellowstone National Park Karen and I decided to stop in Rapid City for a few days to see the wonderful beauty that is the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I had previously seen Mount Rushmore when was I kid and I tried to temper expectations for Karen because I knew she was thinking that the monument was going to be massive in size and scope.  Being a United States history teacher I did not want her to be disappointed in this national treasure.  While it is not as grand as one would imagine it being we both had a wonderful time here and would gladly go back again.

The debate over whether Mount Rushmore is too commercialized is brought up in just about every forum where Mount Rushmore is reviewed.  Any visitor should keep in mind that the whole idea of carving faces into the Black Hills was done to attract tourists to the area.  The idea originally was thought up by Doane Robinson a South Dakota historian who wanted to carve faces in an area called the Needles.  Robinson wanted to use western explorers and Indian leaders, but the sculptor Robinson had hired, Gutzon Borglum, had a grander idea of sculpting presidential faces into Mount Rushmore which was more suitable for carving than the Needles.  He also thought that having presidents carved into the granite would bring more people to the area, now we will never know how many people would visit a historic western carving; however we do know that over 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year.
George Washington

The presidents that are carved into the side of Mount Rushmore are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.  Gutzon picked those four men because he felt they best represented the history of the United States.  George Washington represents the birth of the United States because he led the country through the American Revolution, and then came out of retirement to become the 1st President of the United States after the failure that was, The Articles of Confederation.  Thomas Jefferson represented the growth of the nation.  Lincoln of course is the person that preserved the nation by fighting to keep it together during the Civil War.  The last face of Theodore Roosevelt represented the development of the nation.
Karen at Mount Rushmore

Besides the debate over whether Mount Rushmore is too commercial there are other controversies that surround the monument.  One of the biggest is the fact that it was sculpted in the Black Hills which is sacred to the Lakota people, and building a relief of some of the most important Presidents in United States history there is like a slap in the face to some Native Americans.  Another debate is the environmental destruction of building a sculpture out of such pristine wilderness.  Finally, there are the revisionist historians that want to look at the past through 21st century eyes and dislike Mount Rushmore for the people who are on it.

Hopefully, if you ever visit Mount Rushmore it will fill you with a sense of wonder and pride in the United States.  Use your visit as a celebration of the history that is the United States by walking the half mile Presidential Trail and reading the information along it as you are taking in the sculpture.  Also take the time to see the short film and that timeline that shows the major developments of the United States.  I hope anybody that sees Mount Rushmore leaves there wanting to know more about what makes the United States so unique and special that they go out and learn more about the people and events that did and do make it so great.
Mount Rushmore Sign

Mount Rushmore located in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Hours of Operation- 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. longer hours during the summer months
Cost as of 2012 $11 per vehicle
For more information about Mount Rushmore visit the National Park Service website at http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm

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