There is no better place than Mount Rushmore to celebrate America’s birthday. Independence Day is the celebration of our nation and our founding principles of freedom, equality, and opportunity. Thomas Jefferson wrote the beautiful document that declared the United States of America free and independent. George Washington’s leadership in the American Revolution ensured that our independence was established and protected.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration does not share South Dakota’s desire to celebrate America’s birthday at our Shrine of Democracy. It has arbitrarily and unlawfully denied our permit to hold the event this year, violating a memorandum of agreement that the state of South Dakota had with the Department of Interior.
The Biden administration argues that the COVID pandemic should preclude a fireworks celebration. But South Dakota’s COVID cases are the lowest they’ve been in 14 months. There were zero cases tied to last year’s fireworks event. And more than half of all South Dakota adults have been fully vaccinated.
The administration also argues that there were environmental concerns with holding the event. But all of their concerns were addressed prior to last year’s fireworks celebration. We worked with the National Park Service to conduct a study that found “no significant impact” on the environment from the event. We had fire response resources pre-staged before the event, and no fire occurred. And we had a go/no-go checklist in place that would have canceled the event if there had been severe fire concerns on the day of the celebration.
The administration points out that certain Native American tribes were opposed to the event. But we consulted with them before last year’s celebration. We included programming to celebrate Native heritage at the event. If the administration actually believes this reason for canceling, then it would have to shut down the memorial altogether. I hesitate to write that, though. I don’t want to give the Biden bureaucrats any more bad ideas.
The other concerns referenced by the Biden administration are so frivolous as to not merit discussion. All of the supposed reasons for canceling the fireworks had already been addressed prior to last year’s event. None of these reasons are serious. Make no mistake; the Biden administration canceled our fireworks for purely political reasons.
A federal district court judge recently sided with the Biden administration, but this fight is not over. My legal team is appealing the court’s ruling so that we can celebrate America’s independence at Mount Rushmore next year and into the future.
Unfortunately, by canceling our fireworks celebration, the Biden administration is caving to the radical elements of the modern Democratic Party. They wish to cancel the great men on that mountain who accomplished so much to make America the most special nation in history. It’s but their latest attack on American history and our founding principles. It falls in line with recent promotion of critical race theory and revisionist history like the 1619 Project.
In the radical Left’s view, America has become one of the villains of history. That’s why they promote kneeling for our national anthem. That’s why they tear down statues honoring our nation’s heroes. And that’s why last year there were calls to tear down Mount Rushmore itself.
We know the truth. We know that America is the greatest nation that the world has ever known. While America has fallen short of our founding ideals at times, our nation’s greatest triumphs are in the moments when we’ve made progress toward realizing those ideals.
Independence Day is about celebrating those ideals and the tremendous history that makes them possible. It’s about celebrating the things that make America exceptional, including the exceptional men on Mount Rushmore. They were flawed men — every single one of us has our own flaws. But they led our country through challenging times, and we are stronger for that leadership.
A fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore is the best possible way to celebrate not only those men, but also, and more important, the ideals that they dedicated their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to achieve. Despite the Biden administration’s arbitrary and unlawful decision, we will continue fighting to once again return fireworks to Mount Rushmore.
Kristi Noem is the governor of South Dakota.