Neil Armstrong. Johnny Cash. George Floyd. Sacajawea. Donald Trump.
Those are just a few of the recommendations Americans have for the current president’s proposed National Garden of American Heroes, a statue memorial that Trump wants to build in a potential second term.
In response to the Interior Department’s request for ideas, some states enthusiastically shared heroes to include and statues they would be willing to donate.
Some, like Idaho, offered their state as a potential monument site. Some Democratic governors, like Washington’s Jay Inslee, refused to participate.
Trump originally suggested the idea during a July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore and followed up with an executive order listing 31 people that the garden would include.
The Interior Department then sent out nearly 2,000 letters to governors and counties across the country, asking for ideas for locations of the garden, statues that could be donated, and any other American heroes who should be included in the list.
Washington only had one response listed on the Department of Interior’s website. The response comes from Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser, who suggested musicians Bill Monroe and Bob Dylan.
The response came from one commissioner and not the whole board, a Thurston County spokesperson said on Monday.
Monroe, a musician from Kentucky, created the style of music known as bluegrass, Menser wrote in his letter.
Bluegrass music is a “major cultural component in rural areas across the entire nation through the network of bluegrass festivals that began in the 1960s,” the letter reads.
Dylan, born in Minnesota, has influence that is “profound and international in scope,” the letter reads.
According to Menser’s office, the commissioner is a passionate musician with a love of banjo music.
“In reading through the list of names, he noted a lack of artists, particularly musicians, and wanted to highlight their contributions to our country’s culture,” according to an email.
Although the musicians have no direct connection to Washington, Monroe and Dylan represent what the United States is, for Menser, according to his office.
Inslee refused to participate, as “it was not a good use of time or resources,” Tara Lee, the governor’s director of communications, said in an email.
Many governors dismissed the request. Twelve states, including Washington, do not have governors’ responses listed.
Nine governors’ responses link to a short note saying staff informed the Department of Interior that the governor would not be submitting any recommendations.
In Idaho, responses from Gov. Brad Little and Custer, Kootenai, Minidoka and Owyhee counties are listed. In his letter, Little said he would be open to Idaho being the site of the national monument and memorial.
“Idaho is a large, geographically diverse state with incredible mountain ranges, vast high mountain deserts, and lush forests,” Little wrote.
He included a list of 21 “Idaho Heroes” that included veterans, suffragists, tribal rights activists, authors and entrepreneurs from across the state, with many connections to North Idaho.
Bill Wassmuth, a Coeur d’Alene-based priest and human rights activist, worked to rid Kootenai County of the Aryan Nations. Joseph Garry, a Coeur d’Alene tribal member, became the first indigenous person elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1957. Arthur Troutner, an architect, graduated from the University of Idaho and went on to design the Kibbie Dome on its campus.
This list also includes Harry Magnuson, an entrepreneur from Wallace; Amy Trice, born in Bonners Ferry and a member of the Kootenai Tribe; Vernon Baker, a Medal of Honor recipient from St. Maries; and Carol Ryrie Brink, an author from Moscow.
Custer County Commissioner Steve Smith sent in a list that included Lewis and Clark, George Washington Carver, and President Trump.
The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners submitted a response, but only to say they had no locations to house the memorial, no statues to donate and no additional names to include.
Commissioner Leslie Duncan said in an interview that the board did not feel they had anything else to add.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Duncan said. “I hope there are municipalities who take advantage of that.”
Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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