In one of his last acts in the oval office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for the creation of a statue garden depicting notable Americans, which he dubbed a “National Garden of American Heroes.”
“Across this Nation, belief in the greatness and goodness of America has come under attack in recent months and years by a dangerous anti-American extremism that seeks to dismantle our country’s history, institutions, and very identity,” reads the order. “The National Garden is America’s answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life. On its grounds, the devastation and discord of the moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism. This is the American way.”
In the order, the president listed nearly 250 names of potential “heroes” to include, though the order did not specify if the list was exhaustive. Among the names were some Jews.
Several were unsurprising choices like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered the cure for polio. However, other choices seemed more curious. For example, one name on the list was Hannah Arendt, the German-born philosopher known for her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” was also included on the list, rankling experts on her life and work, which was largely committed to deconstructing totalitarianism.
“I think she would be appalled,” Roger Berkowitz, the director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College told Jewish Insider. “I think she would find Trump ridiculous, and I think she’d find him dangerous insofar as he undermines the basic idea of truthfulness and truth in the country. His attack on the election she would have found abhorrent and dangerous.”
Other Jewish names that Trump included on his list were Barry Goldwater, a conservative politician and failed presidential candidate; and Milton Friedman, the famous economist.
Some of the non-Jewish names on the list raised eyebrows as well, such as that of Christopher Columbus. There has also been a longstanding movement for more education about the negative impacts of his expedition on the America’s Native population and there have been calls for the removal of statues of the explorer across the country.
Other “heroes” for the proposed garden include Dr. Seuss, Whitney Houston and Alex Trebek.
Trump’s ‘Garden of American Heroes,’ includes Arendt