The Fifth Visage on Mt. Rushmore
by Andy Joppa
“And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage,
To fight the unbeatable foe!
To reach the unreachable Star!”
—”The Impossible Dream”, Man of La Mancha
In June of 2009, my wife and I did what many of you have done…we made a “pilgrimage” to Mt. Rushmore. We spent most of the earlier part of the day at the site, awed by the majesty of what the mountain had been carved to represent. Here, we could see four of the greatest Americans, given to us in the size that their roles warranted.
I think that Washington, Lincoln, and probably Jefferson, would have been embarrassed that they would be recognized with such grandeur; none of them sought personal glory from their contributions to our nation’s history. I suspect, however, that Teddy Roosevelt, The Rough Rider, with his larger than life personality, would have welcomed it. My life, to a meaningful extent, was derived from their legacy. I owe them more than I could ever hope to repay.
We went back for the evening’s events. It was a standing room only crowd and there wasn’t an empty seat to be found. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and the images of our past presidents were bathed in light, isolating them from all that was around them. I felt more linked to all that America was…all that America meant…all that America gave to the world, than I had ever experienced before. These were no longer just men on the mountain. They were symbols of values and virtues that their lives represented. We weren’t honoring “who” they were…we were honoring “what” they were.
Toward the end of the evening, as part of the program, they called for all veterans in attendance to go down to the stage that was in front of the amphitheater type seating arrangement. I walked down with, perhaps, 40 other veterans. Once we were all assembled the crowd started to chant…USA…USA…USA. I still get chills even writing about it. They had each of us come to stage center and give our military unit and the conflict we might have been involved with. Actually, they didn’t ask for the conflict, but the first in line did it and the rest of us continued in a like manner. Army…WWII; Marines…Korea; Air Force… Vietnam; Special Forces…Desert Storm; Army…Afghanistan, each of us proudly stated our limited contribution to America and its citizens. I was honored to be standing among them. The audience never stopped wildly applauding and acknowledging each one of us. Right to the very last man… the audience took this opportunity to express their thanks, not just for those of us on the stage, but for all the men and women who had risked so much to protect their freedom and way of life. I will never forget that evening.
We Americans have a shared glory. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants that preceded us. We should bask in their accomplishments and try to emulate, as best we can, contributions of those that built this country. As I consider so many current Americans who, I believe would not understand any emotion I felt or gratitude I expressed; their inability to do so is a loss they have no way of understanding. They are empty of any positive values, driven only by the hatred of America that has been instilled in them by their education, the media and, yes, their parents. They have now become more than an unfortunate irritant but have, because of their numbers and institutional alignments, become a serious threat to our republic and their fellow citizens. Whether we survive as a free nation or not will depend on us…and one man, a man who stands bloodied in the arena, Donald J. Trump.
On television, as I watched our great President’s presentation at Mt. Rushmore, it seemed obvious, at least to this writer, that he is of the same “stuff” as those that stood in eternal granite behind him. Like them he has dedicated his entire being to preserving America as it was intended to be…needs to be. He is truly a great man and like all great men has enormous peaks and some valleys. Everyone of true greatness is of the same mold. Only mediocre men have no significant valleys, because, of course, they have no peaks. They are plateaus of nothingness. I cite Mitt Romney as a man best described as a plateau of nothingness…John McCain was another, both jealous men of meager ability.
President Trump, like those on Mt. Rushmore, has been attacked by many lesser men around him. Nothing humiliates mediocrity more than its association with greatness. Those on Rushmore felt the same sting from other men, most lost to history since they offered nothing except their attacks on the greatness of others.
Newspaper writers attacked Washington and entered into personal attacks questioning his integrity, republican principles, and even military reputation.
Honest Old Abe, it was said, “…continued to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation. He is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion.” Teddy Roosevelt, it was written, showed heedless concern for his men, many of whom were killed in battle because of his rash decisions during the Battle of San Juan Hill and was described as being an Imperialist and…insane. Jefferson was called a, ” mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” He was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.
Great men always rouse the ire of lesser men…and women. Trump’s greatness puts into a harsh spotlight the failings of others. Since they don’t have the competency, nor the will, to match his contributions, they seek to equalize themselves by tearing him down.
If history is fair, there is no American, certainly in our lifetime, who more deserves to be the fifth visage on Mt. Rushmore than President Donald Trump. I pray for his success as our president…I offer him my admiration as a man.
Teddy Roosevelt could have been writing his famous words, The Man in the Arena, about our great president:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”