Did you know that the initial idea for the giant carvings on Mount Rushmore came from a South Dakota historian named Doane Robinson? Robinson envisioned the images of regional Native American and Old West folk heroes on the face of the mountain. He suggested Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill. Artist Gutzon Borglum was commissioned for the monumental project.
Borglum was thinking big picture … he suggested the likenesses of national figures. He chose four presidents who, he believed, shaped the country – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum argued that there wasn’t enough rock face for a fifth head on Mount Rushmore. But if there was, who should it be? Here are XX contenders.
John F. Kennedy
Young, handsome, and charismatic, John F. Kennedy was a popular president who represented a new, modern era of American politics. When he was tragically gunned down by an assassin in 1963, the whole nation mourned.
The American Legion conducted a nationwide survey in 2014 asking, “If you could select one president to be added to Mount Rushmore, who would it be?” John F. Kennedy came in second in the voting. He was second only to Ronald Reagan, a president who was more memorable in the minds of voters.
The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, the first-place winner in the American Legion poll, had many supporters who wanted to see his face on the side of Mount Rushmore. R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the editor of American Spectator, a conservative magazine, launched a tongue-in-cheek initiative to get Reagan on the mountain.
When a reader brought up the point that Borglum made about the lack of stable rock for a fifth face, Tyrrell suggested crafting a head out of concrete and mounting it on Mount Rushmore. A clever reader even recommended using concrete from the Berlin Wall to fashion Reagan’s ear.
In 1977, just two months before his shocking death, legendary rock ‘n roll superstar Elvis Presley performed one of his last concerts at Mount Rushmore’s Civic Plaza. Seeing the King performing in front of Mount Rushmore gave many people a brilliant idea. Elvis’s face should join the other famous Americans on the monument.
In 1991, Magic Matt Alan, a DJ from Los Angeles, started a write-in campaign advocating to add Elvis’s image to Mount Rushmore. But again, there isn’t much room left on the mountain. Instead of a 60-foot-tall depiction of the King of Rock ‘n Roll, fans had to settle for a one-inch one. That year, Elvis was honored on a postage stamp.
Susan B. Anthony
In 1927, the year that construction began on Mount Rushmore, Rose Arnold Powell, a longtime supporter of Susan B. Anthony, advocated for the suffragist to be added to Mount Rushmore. Powell even had Eleanor Roosevelt on her side. Bills were introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate in 1836 lobbying for Anthony’s inclusion. But the bills did not pass.
As for Gutzon Borglum, he made it clear that he opposed having Susan B. Anthony on the monument. Ever the misogynist, Borglum reiterated that his vision for the monument was to “portray the men who founded, defended, and expanded the United States.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
We are seeing monuments to Confederate figures coming under fire in recent years. One of them is Stone Mountain in Georgia, another massive carved monument that was created by Gutzon Borglum before he worked on Mount Rushmore. Stone Mountain features the likenesses of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.
It seems only fitting that Martin Luther King, Jr. be considered as an addition to the images on Mount Rushmore. The civil rights leader was instrumental in setting the stage for racial equality in the United States before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a heroic World War II general, had two notable achievements during his time in the Oval Office. One was the establishment of the interstate highway system, and the other was to end the Korean Conflict. Eisenhower’s name was floated as a worthy contender for Mount Rushmore.
In 1960, Kenneth Keating, a Republican senator from New York, and Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat from Minnesota, proposed adding two faces to Mount Rushmore – Eisenhower and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The idea fizzled. Eisenhower’s name has not really been brought up since, but FDR’s has.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Two Roosevelts are better than one! Franklin D. Roosevelt, who spent more time as the president of the U.S. than anyone before or after him, was the fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt. Many people pushed to see his image join his distant kinfolk on the side of Mount Rushmore.
FDR had a special place in his heart for Mount Rushmore. He personally donated to the construction project. Then, in 1936, he delivered a moving speech at the official dedication of Jefferson’s head.
The presidency of Barack Obama was historic. As the first African-American president, number 44 broke one of the nation’s most important race barriers and demonstrated the ideals of the American dream. He tackled issues such as healthcare, civil rights, and international relations.
Currently, there is an online petition calling for Barack Obama’s likeness to be included on Mount Rushmore. Even if the petition gets the required number of signatures, it is unlikely that Obama’s face will be on the monument. Again, the remaining rock is full of fissures, making it unstable.
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump thinks his face would make a great addition to Mount Rushmore. He told Kristi Noem, then a congresswoman from South Dakota who would later become the state’s governor, that he thinks he should be immortalized on the granite mountain.
Trump claimed he was joking, but he later tweeted, “It sounds like a good idea to me.” As a way of proving his point, the 45th president of the United States included a photo of himself posing in front of Mount Rushmore. Because of his contentious and controversial legacy, Trump can probably safely cross “face on Mount Rushmore” off his bucket list.