Faculty Sponsor

Margaret Franson, Heath Carter


Christ College


Christ College Honors Thesis

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-2015


The Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands in the Black Hills of South Dakota as a symbol of American greatness. However, the public perceptions of the greatness represented in this memorial do not take into consideration the ideals held by the three main contributors to the development of the mountain, Doane Robinson, Peter Norbeck, and Gutzon Borglum. An exploration into the lives and beliefs of these three men reveals that they possessed a specific definition of America greatness exemplified in the white male farmer of the American West. The four former presidents selected for carving symbolize a general American greatness, but more importantly they epitomize the specific version of greatness championed by the planners of the memorial. Yet, from the earliest perceptions of Mt. Rushmore, the public saw only the representation of a general American greatness that included all members of the nation and eventually the entire world. Visitors to Mount Rushmore do not see the specific ideas of American greatness intended by the planners of the memorial and these ideas of American greatness are now dead.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Caleb Rollins is a senior studying international service and the humanities. This paper was written in a history class at Valparaiso University entitled "U.S.: Empire for Liberty?" The author's interest in this topic began from several personal trips to Mount Rushmore, but was developed by further study of historical monuments and the meaning that they originally conveyed, once conveyed, and convey today. While the author does not intend to pursue this topic in further research or schooling, he encourages all to consider the varied meanings and contexts of historical monuments and memorials, especially when they are attempting to present a patriotic message. The author hopes to pursue work in social ministry and perhaps continue his education at a later date.