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Commemorating America at Mount Rushmore

July 10, 2020

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend President Trump’s Independence celebration at Mount Rushmore. During this speech, the President stated, “Our Founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity. No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America. And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.” I appreciate President Trump’s strong remarks.

Mount Rushmore is a symbol of the progress of our nation. While the Presidents honored – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt – were not perfect by modern standards, each significantly contributed to the improvement of our nation, and because of their extraordinary efforts, we are the greatest nation on earth. In order to protect this American icon, I have cosponsored the Mount Rushmore Protection Act (H.R.7358) which would prohibit the use of federal funds to “alter, change, destroy, or remove, in whole or in part, any name, face, or other feature” on the monument.

Recent events have led to vandalism and other efforts to remove some of our statues and national treasures. Statues vandalized and torn down have included Ulysses Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and even a memorial to Levi Harrington, an African American man lynched in Kansas City. This vandalism is unacceptable. There is a legal process for the removal of statues. Our system of government allows legislative bodies to decide which public statues most appropriately reflect our history. This legal process ensures the decision to remove a statue has the consent of the people, and not a select few who take it upon themselves to decide what is right.

Last September I had the honor of attending the ceremony in the U.S. Capitol where Nebraska’s statue honoring Chief Standing Bear, a pioneer in Native American civil rights, replaced the statue of William Jennings Bryan. While not every Nebraskan may have agreed with the decision to change Nebraska’s statues, the decision was passed by the Unicameral and signed into law by Governor Ricketts.

There is no doubt we are at a crossroads in America. On top of a worldwide pandemic, the violence inflicted on George Floyd in Minneapolis has highlighted troubling trends in America, leading to a period of national reflection about whether the constitutional promises of equal opportunity and treatment before the law are being met. We are fortunate to have a constitution which strives to protect these freedoms for all Americans and provide appropriate mechanisms for redress when it fails to do so.

During difficult times in our nation such as this, we will not move forward by tearing down figures of the past. Instead, we must learn more about our history: the mistakes of the past and also the great achievements made to push us forward as a nation. God bless America, and I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!