Our Dreams Are What Our Childrens' Future Is Made Of


State Representative David Perryman

Presidential vacations are often used as the focal point of detractors of residents of the White House.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether the President is a Republican or a Democrat, purely political spew from “across the aisle” paints the nation’s Chief Executive as irresponsible for being away from Washington so long.

Rewind to 1923.  Doane Robinson, who was nearing the end of his career as the director of the historical society of a relatively remote and unpopulated state had dreamed for years that his home state would one day gain international fame because of a work of art portraying a character from that state’s history.  He was able to convince one of the state’s U.S. Senators who encouraged him to locate an artist. 

Robinson was able to locate an internationally known sculptor and convince him of the potential of his dream. This art was to be larger than life and that artist, Gutzon Borglum had once carved the head of Abraham Lincoln from a six ton block of marble and had it exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House.

While a group of residents of the state supported Robinson’s dream, many more considered it a costly and impractical folly.  Nearly four years passed before a series of unconnected events gave life to the project. 

Fast forward to the Spring of 1927, when President Calvin Coolidge decided to spend a three week lodge vacation at Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

President Coolidge was no outdoorsman, but he intended to use this 21 day break to relax and to learn to fish.  History does not record whether he ever knew that the park rangers “upped the President’s odds” and greatly enhanced his daily catch by stretching chicken wire across the river upstream and downstream and trucking in a nightly replenishment of large trout from a local fishery.

Wouldn’t today’s political partisans have a field day with that?

Nonetheless, the President and Mrs. Coolidge and her pet raccoon and two dogs were so thoroughly delighted with South Dakota’s Black Hillls that the three week Presidential vacation was extended to a three month holiday.  Undoubtedly, it is a whole lot more fun fishing when you catch fish. 

Whether the idea to “salt” the President’s fishing hole originated with the rangers or whether the U.S. Senator, Artist Borglum or Director Robinson had a part in it is immaterial.  What is relevant is that the extended vacation allowed the proponents of the artwork to court the President’s support for the federal government’s funding of the artwork.

Senator Norbeck visited the President at the lodge.  Borglum dropped a wreath inviting the Chief Executive to a formal dedication and consequently, on August 10, 1927, President Coolidge rode horseback, sporting cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat given to him by area residents to the ceremony in the Black Hills of South Dakota formally announcing to the world that Harney Peak on Mount Rushmore, the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps would be used by Gutzon Borglum as the location for a colossal carving of the faces of four great presidential figures.

In the end, the federal government paid for most of the nearly $1 Million Dollar price tag.  As a result, the monument draws approximately 3 Million visitors every year to the area and has paid for itself many, many times over.  Detractors could argue that South Dakota did not need that economic boost, but it goes without saying that comparatively few people would drive across the country to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane in Deadwood’s Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Today, dreams still guide our thoughts.  Our desire to improve our quality of life and to leave this world better for those who come after us is led by our vision of a world that could be.  We should never spend public funds foolishly.  We should always attempt to discern the merits of any governmental expenditure.  However, the disservice that we render when we summarily dismiss dreams and ideas as being foolish or too costly can be immeasurable and long lasting.

Our dreams are what our childrens’ future is made of.  If the art on Mount Rushmore were proposed today, it would never receive congressional approval.  Mount Rushmore was worth it.  Are our children worth investing in their future?

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.