U.S. President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order establishing a “national garden of American heroes” filled with statues of notable historically significant figures, as he continues to criticize protesters for destroying existing monuments across the country.
Trump’s announcement Friday during an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore marked the latest move by a president who has made the protection of historical statues a cornerstone of his political messaging amid deepening conversations over systemic racism in the U.S. and around the world.
The garden will be “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” Trump promised to a supportive crowd at the celebration.
The full executive order released by the White House Friday takes aim at the recent toppling of monuments around the country in recent weeks during protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.
“These statues are not ours alone to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions,” the order reads.
“In the face of such acts of destruction, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.”
According to the order, a task force will be created to present a plan to Trump within 60 days for the creation of the national garden, including possible locations.
The order says the garden should include realistic renderings of such figures as George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, along with notable past presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, and military figures including George Patton. Civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman should also be featured.
Several other categories are mentioned for potential inclusion, such as recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, pioneers and explorers, and police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty.
“None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying,” the order reads.
In addition to the main statue garden, where visitors will be able to “enjoy nature, walk among the statues and be inspired to learn about great figures of America’s history,” the order also calls for a separate collection of temporary statues for display at sites around the country.
The garden must be opened to the public before the 250th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence in 2026, according to the order.
The executive order’s language and purpose echo the themes of Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore Friday, where he sharply rebuked the protesters who have called for an end to police brutality and systemic racism in America, including the lionization of Confederate generals and other historical figures with ties to slavery.
Trump said the protesters have waged “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history” and framed the current national mood as a choice between the preservation of American values and the rise of “totalitarian cancel culture.”
“Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny,” Trump said.
Trump has already signed a separate executive order making the destruction of a federal monument punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
He told the Mount Rushmore crowd that “hundreds” of protesters have been arrested under that order, and has retweeted FBI wanted posters showing pictures of people sought for “vandalization of federal property.”
—With files from the Associated Press