You have to wonder what exactly was the criteria for Trump’s National Garden of American Heroes. The list has some questionable choices and notable omissions: There are no Native Americans, no Latinos, no Asian Americans, no scientists and no artists. Don’t worry: This isn’t lacking in “diversity” if you believe in a binary system.
I’m not Native American, but I thought since Trump was at Mt. Rushmore, it would be fitting to include mention of Crazy Horse and the Crazy Horse Monument which is currently still in production.
So what is a hero? According to Merriam-Webster, a hero is “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities” or “one who shows great courage.”
In a time that is truly the Age of the Geek, you’d probably want to add a few heroes who have meaning to our current lives. So below, I’ve written a list of my initial thoughts.
John James Audubon (1785–1851): Audubon was an American painter of birds and nature. His color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839) is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever made. Audubon identified 25 new species.
George Balanchine (January 22, 1904 (O. S. January 9) – April 30, 1983): Balanchine was one of the most influential American ballet choreographers.
Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 – April 1, 1991): Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer.
Grant Wood (February 13, 1891 – February 12, 1942) You might not know his name, but you know his painting “American Gothic House.” That painting is probably the most famous and often parodied American painting.
Mikhail Baryshinikov (January 27, 1948 to present): I admit I have a crush on him, but Baryshinikov was one of the greatest male ballet dancers.
Wong Kim Ark (1873- ?): Ark challenged the government’s refusal to recognize his citizenship (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)) and helped define what it means to be a US citizen. Ark’s legal triumph didn’t help him that much; he returned to China and died shortly after World War II .
Arthur Chin (October 23, 1913 – September 3, 1997): Chin didn’t wait for the United States to enter the war and went to China. There, he became the first American flying ace of World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal.
Lau Sing Kee (1894 and 1896 -June 3, 1967) Helped other Chinese bypass the racist immigration laws.”he maintained communications single-handedly for more than 24 hours, collapsing on the ground after delivering his last message.” Recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross. Awarded a Purple Heart as well as France’s Croix de Guerre for valor.
Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973): Lee was born in the US (San Francisco), and went on to become an actor, director, martial artist, martial arts instructor and philosopher. He is an American icon.
Tokutaro Slocum (1895–1974): Key figure in the passing of the Nye-Lea Act which was signed into law on June 24, 1935. This allowed 500 World War I veterans to become naturalized citizens after being denied based on race.
César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993): American labor leader. You can’t actually have Chavez without Dolores Huerta. Huerta is still alive (born April 10, 1930).In addition, you should probably include Filipino labor leader Larry Itliong (25 October 1913 – 8 February 1977) and Philip Vera Cruz (December 25, 1904 – June 12, 1994). The Delano grape strike (September 7, 1965 – July 1970) had a nationwide impact.
Andrea D. Perez: Her legal case (Perez v. Sharp) paved the way for Loving v. Virginia.
Sylvia Mendez (June 7, 1936): Her legal case (Mendez v. Westminster) paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education.
Black Hawk, Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, (1767 – October 3, 1838): Black Hawk was a band leader and warrior of the Sauk Native American tribe.
Chief Joseph, Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt (March 3, 1840 – September 21, 1904): Chief Joseph was leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce.
Cochise, Shi-ka-She or A-da-tli-chi (c. 1805 – June 8, 1874): Cochise was a leader of the Chihuicahui local group of the Chokonen and principal chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache.
Crazy Horse, Tȟašúŋke Witkó (c. 1840 – September 5, 1877): Crazy Horse was a Lakota war leader of the Oglala band in the 19th century. His memorial in the Black Hills is still considered under construction and was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder.
Geronimo, Goyaałé Athabaskan (June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909): Geronimo was a prominent leader and medicine man from the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe. His name is part of modern American English.
Sitting Bull, Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (c. 1831 – December 15, 1890): Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota leader who led his people during years of resistance against United States government.
William Penn Adair Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935): Rogers was an American stage and film actor, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator from Oklahoma who was of Cherokee descent.
Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi (前角 博雄 Maezumi Hakuyū, February 24, 1931–May 15, 1995): You might not have heard of Maezumi, but you’ve heard of Zen. Maezumi was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher He founded or co-founded several institutions and practice centers
The Quakers were represented by Friends Service Council and American Friends Service Committee) when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.
Nyogen Senzaki (千崎 如幻, 1876–1958): Zen has become part of the American English lexicon and Senzaki was a Rinzai Zen monk who was one of the 20th century’s leading proponents of Zen Buddhism in the United States.
John Smith (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844): His name might be common place, but he was the founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement.
Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016): This Romanian-born American writer, professor and political activist was a Nobel Peace Prize (1986), and Holocaust survivor.
John Bardeen (May 23, 1908 – January 30, 1991): Bardenn was an American physicist and the only person to be given two Nobel Prize in Physics. The first was with William Schokley and Walter Brattain for the invention of the transistor in 1956 and the second time was in 1972 with Leon N. Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.
Alexander Graham Bell (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922): Bell was an inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885
Norman E. Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009): Borlaug was an American agronomist who led worldwide initiatives that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production in what was termed the Green Revolution. For his efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964): Carson was the American marine biologist who wrote “Silent Spring.”
George Washington Carver (1860s – January 5, 1943): Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and other methods to avoid soil depletion.
Thomas Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931): Edison was an inventor and business man who worked in the fields of electric power generation, mass communication and sound motion pictures.
Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955): Einstein was German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity. He might have been the first scientist celebrity.
Henry Ford ((July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947): Ford was an American industrialist who created the first automobile that the middle-class could afford. He brought us car culture.
John Muir (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914): Muir was a naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States.
Linus Pauling (February 28, 1901 – August 19, 1994): Pauling was an American chemical engineer, chemist, biochemist and peace activist. He is one of four people who was given more than one Nobel Prize. He was given a Nobel Prize in chemistry (1954) and a Nobel Peace Prize (1962).
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943): Tesla is best known for his design of the modern alternating current electricity system.
Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias (June 26, 1911 – September 27, 1956): American athlete who excelled in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics.
Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (August 24, 1890 – January 22, 1968): Native Hawaiian competition swimmer who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing. Five-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Jesse Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980): An American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games which were held in Berlin, before Adolph Hitler.
Jim Thorpe (May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953): A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States, winning in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon. He also played football, baseball and basketball.
Bonnie Blair (born March 18, 1964) is a retired American speed skater. Blair competed for the United States in four Olympics, winning five gold medals and one bronze medal.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (born March 3, 1962): Retired track star. heptathlon as well as long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals.
Greg Louganis (January 29, 1960): Louganis won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics.
Michael Phelps (June 30, 1985): This former competitive swimmer is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning 28 Olympic medals (23 gold).
Serena Williams (born September 26, 1981): Professional tennis player.
Alice Stokes Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977). Paul and not Susan B. Anthony saw the 19th Amendment passed and finally implemented on 26 August 1920. Susan B. Anthony had already been dead for over a decade by that time. Paul was also instrumental in the peaceful protests in front to the White House during World War I that finally broke then-President Woodrow Wilson down. Anthony got things started, but Paul saw it to a successful conclusion.
Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 28, 1935): Addams founded Hull House and advocated for women’s suffrage and world peace. Co-founder for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Emily Greene Balch (January 8, 1867 – January 9, 1961): Balch was an American economist, sociologist and pacifist whose involvement in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom resulted in her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
National Garden of American Heroes
According to the executive order, the garden will open before July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The potential historical figures that may receive a statue as suggested in the executive order are included below:
- John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826): John Adams was a Founding Father, second president, statesman.
- Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906). Anthony was a pivotal figure in the women’s suffrage movement.
- Clara Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912): Barton was a pioneering American nurse who founded the American Red Cross.
- Daniel Boone (November 2, 1734 – September 26, 1820): Boone was a pioneer, explorer and statesman.
- Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (September 8, 1828 – February 24, 1914): Chamberlain was an American college professor from Maine who was a brigadier general during the American Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor (Battle of Gettysburg) and later became the governor of Maine. He was also the president of Bowdoin College. Yet I don’t see why he is considered a hero over other people who fought during the Civil War like Ulysses S. Grant or Robert Gould Shaw or the first so-called modern general William Tecumseh Sherman.
- Henry Clay (April 12, 1777 – June 29, 1852): Clay was an American lawyer and statesman. He represented Kentucky in the House and Senate. He also owned slaves (about 50).
- Davy Crockett (August 17, 1786 – March 6, 1836): Crockett is an American for hero and politician. He represented Tennessee in the US House of Representatives. He also served in the Texas Revolution. He owned slaves.
- Frederick Douglass (c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895): Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator and writer who escaped from slavery.
- Amelia Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared July 2, 1937, declared dead January 5, 1939): Earhart was an aviator pioneer and an author. And yet why Earhart, but not Charles Lindberg?
- Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1706] – April 17, 1790): Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers. He was a politician and a diplomat. He was also a writer.
- Billy Graham (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018): Graham was an American evangelist and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. Graham and MLK are the only religious leaders chosen, and both are Christian and Southern.
- Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804): Hamilton was a Founding Father. He was a politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer and banker. Hamilton worked for a company that traded commodities, including slaves, but he believed that slavery was morally wrong.
- Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826): Jefferson was a Founding Father, the second president and a slave owner. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) King was an influential African American minister and activist. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.
- Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865): Lincoln was the 16th president and the saw the US through the Civil War.
- Douglas MacArthur (26 January 1880 – 5 April 1964): MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. Why MacArthur who was fired by then-President Harry S. Truman should be in the presidential hero garden is questionable.
- Dolley Madison (née Payne; May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849): Madison was the wife of James Madison and supposedly saved the portrait of George Washington. She owned slaves.
- James Madison (March 16, 1751[b] – June 28, 1836): Madison was a Founding Father who has been called the Father of the Constitution. He was the fourth president and a slave owner.
- Christa McAuliffe (née Corrigan; September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986): McAuliffe was a teacher and chosen to be a civilian astronaut on the ill-fated Challenger. Why her and not the other members: Judith Resnik, Dick Scobee, Capt. Michael J. Smith,Mission Specialist Lt Col Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis?
- Audie Murphy (20 June 1925 – 28 May 1971): Murphy was a highly decorated American soldier (World War II), an actor, songwriter and rancher. He was the Medal of Honor recipient.
- George S. Patton, Jr. (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945): Patton was a general in the US Army during World War II. Patton was the first to integrate black and white soldiers into the same rifle companies.
- Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004): Reagan was the 40th president of the US and 33rd governor of California. And yet, why Reagan?
- Jackie Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972): Robinson was the Brooklyn Dodger who broke the color line in baseball.
- Betsy Ross (January 1, 1752 – January 30, 1836): Ross was credited with making the first US flag. But if we’re looking for women who were heroes during the American Revolution, what about Margaret Cochran Corbin?
- Antonin Scalia (March 11, 1936 – February 13, 2016): Scalia was an American lawyer, jurist, government official, and academic who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2016. I’d choose John Jay over Scalia. It is too early to evaluate Scalia’s contributions to judicial history. Other SCOTUS Justices to consider: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Earl Warren.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896): Stowe was an abolitionist and author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” If one was going to take on a writer who deals with race, I’d choose Mark Twain over Stowe.
- Harriet Tubman (c. March 1822 – March 10, 1913): Tubman was an abolitionist and political activist who was born into slavery. And yet, the Trump administration has not expedited the issuing of the Tubman $20 bill?
- Booker T. Washington (April 18, 1856 – November 14, 1915) Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and adviser to multiple presidents of the United States.
- George Washington (February 22, 1732– December 14, 1799): Washington was a general of the US Army during the Revolutionary War and the first president. Unfortunately, he was a slave owner.
- Orville Wright (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur Wright (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912): The Wright brothers were American aviation pioneers and are generally credited with inventing, building and flying the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.
If we look at the main eight Founding Fathers, we see that John Jay (December 23, 1745 – May 17, 1829), who was the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–1795), was left out. Certainly he would be a better choice than Antonin Scalia. Another Founding Father not on the list is Samuel Adams. This Adams likely planned the Boston Tea Party and he was anti-slavery. He went on to serve as a governor of Massachusetts.
WEB DuBois founded the NAACP and should probably be on this list. I’d choose him over Booker T. Washington.
Let me know what you think or your own suggestions might be.