There! I saw it, right behind those trees!," came the excited outburst of my younger brother. "Where? I don't see it," replied my mother as she attempted to catch a glimpse of the sighting with her camera.
I too glanced through my window but all I could capture was the setting sun leaking its radiance through the branches of the towering dark pine trees. No matter, I thought, I will see it soon enough. Unsurprisingly I was correct, and when I stood before the monument I could not help but feel like a medieval peasant girl standing in the presence of a king. High and majestic those carvings stood, staring over the realm of distant pine trees with contemplative looks of honor and pride. These men appeared as if they had a purpose, as if they were demonstrating something of tremendous worth to the onlookers.
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After admiring the animated spiritedness of these sculptures, my family and I wandered into the Mount Rushmore Museum and decided to watch a short film on the history of Mount Rushmore. As the early scenes of the film ran, I felt a blooming development of American pride swell within my chest. Watching the tenacity of Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum and being re-taught of the great sacrifices each of those four presidents achieved fueled my patriotic spirit. But the dignity I was experiencing suddenly wobbled when I heard President Calvin Coolidge's dedication speech. Within his speech, President Coolidge referred to the future generations of America by saying:
The progress of America has been due to the spirit of the people. It is in no small degree due to that spirit that we have been able to produce such great leaders. If coming generations are to maintain a like spirit, it will be because they continue to support the principles which these men represented. It is for that purpose that we erect memorials.
Perhaps to others this quote would have affected them in a different way than it did with me. When the film was over and we had left the theatre to wander around some more; I could not help but ponder more on what President Coolidge had proclaimed about the future generations and the American spirit. Do the generations of today have that similar spirit as the men of the past had? Of course many love this nation and are willing to sacrifice their lives for it, I told myself as I stopped to listen to military men give speeches in an outdoor coliseum. But the question still remained. Do they have the same spirit that encompassed someone like General George Washington during the times of the Revolution? Do they value at the same level as Thomas Jefferson did the rare freedom, liberty and equality this country has strived for? Do they understand how important the principles — as Coolidge said — of this nation, found in documents like the Constitution, are to its character and being? In fact, do they even know the principles? My mind flashed back to one of Glenn Beck's old programs where he and American historian David Barton were explaining that America's past morals and values were being forgotten and corroded by the doings of our citizens and our government. Are we still the same America of the past or are we losing what we once were? Saddened by the idea of losing the old American spirit, I glanced one last time at the faces staring off into the horizon of the setting sun and left with my family to return to the car.
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