© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

I Beg Your Garden? Trump Adds 'Hero' Names To Statue Garden Unlikely To Take Root

The late Whitney Houston, seen here in 2001, is on the list of names of "great Americans" President Trump seeks to honor as statues in a proposed "National Garden of American Heroes." But with two days left in office, Trump is very unlikely to see his vision realized.
Scott Gries
Getty Images
The late Whitney Houston, seen here in 2001, is on the list of names of "great Americans" President Trump seeks to honor as statues in a proposed "National Garden of American Heroes." But with two days left in office, Trump is very unlikely to see his vision realized.

Updated at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday

What do Walt Disney, Whitney Houston, Dolley Madison and Frederick Douglass have in common? They're part of an extensive list of 244 people that President Trump says he wants to honor as statues in the proposed "National Garden of American Heroes."

But with just two days left before he leaves office, Trump has run out of time to build the garden, which has not received any funding from Congress, and is highly unlikely to be pursued by incoming President-elect Joe Biden's administration.

Trump released the list of names in an executive order Monday, building on his July executive order. It was part of his response to racial justice protests, during which time some statues of Confederate figures were toppled, and others removed. Trump made the proposal part of his stump speech on the campaign trail.

"The chronicles of our history show that America is a land of heroes. ... The gates of a beautiful new garden will soon open to the public where the legends of America's past will be remembered," Trump wrote in Monday's order.

"Across this Nation," the order continues, "belief in the greatness and goodness of America has come under attack in recent months and years by a dangerous anti-American extremism that seeks to dismantle our country's history, institutions, and very identity."

It adds: "On its grounds, the devastation and discord of the moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism. This is the American way. When the forces of anti-Americanism have sought to burn, tear down, and destroy, patriots have built, rebuilt, and lifted up. That is our history."

In mentioning "discord of the moment," Trump makes no mention of his own supporters who violently stormed the Capitol earlier this month as Congress was counting electoral votes.

The earlier order laid out a vision for a garden to "depict historically significant Americans" at a to-be-determined place with a target date for public access of July 4, 2026.

The list of those Trump wants to honor is wide-ranging; it includes past politicians, musicians, artists, astronauts, movie stars, philosophers, athletes and other historical figures. Trump's order says the garden would be paid for and maintained by the Department of the Interior.

A small sampling of the names includes: Louis Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Crispus Attucks, Clara Barton, Ingrid Bergman, Irving Berlin, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Carnegie, Julia Child, Nat King Cole, Christopher Columbus, Walt Disney, Aretha Franklin, Theodor Geisel aka "Dr. Seuss", Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barry Goldwater, Woody Guthrie, Alfred Hitchcock, Whitney Houston, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Inouye, Amelia Earhart, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Paul Revere, Jackie Robinson, Nikola Tesla, Harriet Tubman and Alex Trebek.

"In short, each individual has been chosen for embodying the American spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love," the order said.

Trump first spoke about the plan to establish an outdoor park holding statues of the "greatest Americans to ever live" during a trip to Mount Rushmore in July, in the midst of social unrest over the police killings of unarmed Black men. Various monuments and statues to members of the Confederacy had been torn down by the public or removed by government officials, a move that angered the president.

"To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance," he said in his July executive order. "These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn."

Trump reiterated his idea for the garden during a campaign stop in Muskegon, Mich., in October.

"It's going to be called The National Garden of American Heroes. Isn't that nice?" he said to applause. "Now you know me from private life, so I'm thinking about calling it the Trump National Garden of American [heroes]."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.