Heroes of our shared heritage from across all walks of life, eras, expertise, and influence should and will share space in a monumental garden saluting their–and our–legacies. Hopefully. And hopefully, this statuary collection will stand outside Washington, D.C., perhaps even at Mount Rushmore to join the largest existing busts in salute of American heroes. The Presidential Executive Order and full list of names can be read here, though these two fellows are prime examples of the caliber and contents.
One of America’s greatest jazz composers and bandleaders. As music is one of the most powerful emotional evocators, Duke Ellington truly was heroic in his long and creative career. I just so happen to have known one of his dancers and the personification of his greatest hit, “Satin Doll,” who was most definitely an American hero in her own right and a stalwart friend missed.
The personification of the American West. And of my grandfather. Or he of him. Regardless, my Grandfather was my hero, and that smile-nose-and-eyes up there? Them’s my Grandpa’s, and seeing them once again brings memories and inspirations and dreams galore. John Wayne portrayed larger-than-life heroes who’ve become synonymous with the American Spirit.
There is a wide range of names (currently set to begin with 244), men and women ranging from HoH’s previously mentioned Andrew Carnegie to scientists, artists, and revolutionaries from popular entertainment to military and medical and political service. Actually not as many military or presidential names as one would think, which is refreshingly surprising. There are well-known, becoming-better-known, and little-known names, each with something important to teach us, remind us of, inspire us to pursue. 244 may seem like a lot of people, and while in some ways it is, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg of who and what makes America great.
I think it’s an interesting list of heroes for certain, one that should entice conversation and dialogue rather than conflict and dispute. Are there names I wonder about, present and not? Of course. But that’s why there’s a committee who selects them, not just a single, dogmatic voice. My list would be different, as would yours, and yours, and yours. My goodness, y’all can’t agree with me that the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the greatest series of All-Time, the GOAT of literature. If only Steven Erikson weren’t Canadian…