Celebrating 4th July

Hey ATRC folks,

Philip again. Another July 4th is upon us. And in recognition of the founding of our republic, I want to tell y’all about my curious experience about a week and a half ago, the day before I ran my big race in South Dakota.

About a week and a half ago, my Dad drove me up to my race in the Black Hills, and the day before, we decided to make a stop at Mount Rushmore.

It was an absolute spectacle. Even on a weekday, the place was crowded full of tourists from all over the world. Besides the monument itself, there were TWO gift shops, a food truck, an expensive restaurant, a museum, a movie theater, and an amphitheater hosting a local music concert, all in the same complex. I found the bustling, loud, and jam-packed viewing area a little off-putting in comparison to other quieter, more natural vistas that I’ve experienced in other national parks. But despite all the teeming crowds and screaming children, I found a particular experience very thought provoking and reflective. A ranger held a discussion in the middle of the throng that I found very intriguing.

This ranger collected a group of people and led us on a walk around the monument, and listed some of the major accomplishments of these men on the monument. But most interestingly, he asked US who we would put on Mount Rushmore if we had to choose. It didn’t have to be a President necessarily, but he asked us to think of people who deserved to have their faces carved into the immortality of rock and stone. He asked us to think of people who represented the values that our founders (despite their deep and numerous flaws) laid down for us.

I heard a lot of suggestions, from politically controversial figures to more unifying figures such as Martin Luther King Junior, Neil Armstrong, Johnny Appleseed, and Beyonce. But the important point was to recognize that our country is not just a country rigidly etched in stone. Amidst the mobs of tourists arguing over gift prices and spilling drinks, this ranger was gently leading us to the recognition that our country is still alive and brimming with the values that lead us to improve and grow as a nation, and that there are people, either recently deceased or alive today, that still contain the goodness to which America as a whole aspires.

So my suggestion for y’all is to think of someone who deserves to be up on Mount Rushmore, someone who lives the virtues that we’ve enshrined in our founding documents and in monuments all across this nation. But more importantly, I want to ask y’all what ways you yourselves can do to deserve a spot on Mount Rushmore. For me, I’m going to try to keep my word more consistently and carry out what I promise in words. It’s a small thing, but hopefully it’s a start. What are you going to do?

I look forward to your emails and comments.

Thanks for reading,

Philip