It is an American experience like no other, looking skyward at the largest stone sculpture in the world, revealed in the magnificent granite faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Carved into the peak of Mt. Rushmore at 5,725 feet above sea level, this colossal work of art was created by a force that burned in the heart of a Danish immigrant, Gutzon Borglum, a bullish patriot and egomaniacal genius. He believed that one man could change the world. For 14 years his rock-hard American determinism was tested, beginning in 1925 in the black hills of South Dakota.
Despite strong criticism and lack of support, Borglum was determined to create a monument that would honor America’s heritage and its founders. Confident in his own ability, he knew he could carve life into granite.
Raising funds was another story.
It wasn’t until Calvin Coolidge broke his silence and promoted the effort by saying, “We have come here to dedicate a cornerstone laid by the hand of the Almighty,” that Congress appropriated funds for the project to begin. But Mt. Rushmore would see its darkest days during the Great Depression.
Inspired by Borglum’s undaunted spirit, the miracle of Mt. Rushmore was in the hands of the 400 men and women who dug, drilled, hauled and labored in both freezing and sweltering conditions. It was the story of common, hard-working people bound together by a sense of vision that they were working on something greater than themselves, something lasting. Under the barking orders of Borglum, they helped create the largest monument on earth, one of national pride that brings four American presidents into prominence.
Today, three million visitors per year come to view the magnificent summit of Mt. Rushmore. My husband George and I were recently two of them. It is here that an American dream was brought to life, a place where patriots pay tribute to our founders who helped carve out a Constitution that secured our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.