East Grand Rapids High School welcomed historical re-enactors to their auditorium stage. The actors each portrayed a different President whose face is commemorated in effigy at Mount Rushmore.
President Washington, portrayed by Dean Malissa, of Mount Vernon started off the event. He spoke candidly of his time as a brazen Colonel in French American war when he was a loyal English servant. All would change In 1764 as he was yanked out of life as a Virginia gentleman farmer. The English, in order to pay off war debts, turned to American colonials to refill the coffers of the King of England using tariffs that suppressed their rightful liberties. This served as the catalyst which inspired the colonies to the come together to fight the most powerful army and navy in the world. Appointed Commander of Colonial Army, the U.S. would not declare independence for another 13 months. Washington was proud of the fact that at time of independence and the signing of Constitution, America was the only country in the world not under control of an absolute ruler.
Thomas Jefferson of Colonial Williamsburg was next to take stage, portrayed by Bill Barker. His discourse focused on the American experiment to prove man capable of self-government, using public debate and conversation to create a government to defend our natural rights, one which checks and balances its own power, forever allowing us to strive to improve our Union.
President Lincoln, played by Jim Getty of Gettysburg, started off by explaining his rise as an attorney and politician. He gave clarity to his disagreement with Stephen A. Douglas regarding the expansion of territories which would allow slavery. Lincoln believed that “If we can contain it (slavery) than somewhere in the future citizens will choose to get rid of it”. He also described the formation of the Republican Party by The Whigs, Free Soilers, and abolitionists, and how he left his Whig Party to join it. He then described how his election as President spurred the Southern states succession from the Union. War would follow, and on January 1st, 1863 he would sign into action the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln also described his sadness regarding the events of the Battle of Gettysburg, the single bloodiest day in the Civil War, and how 4 months later was called to dedicate the cemetery there where he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address…
President Roosevelt, played by Jim Foote of Sagamore Hill, reiterated Jefferson’s sentiments concerning the Constitution. He expressed his belief that in order to be a good American, one must be a good citizen. He also addressed personal loses in his life, having his wife and mother taken from him within 6 hours of each other on Valentine’s Day, just days after the birth of his daughter. Roosevelt also gave insight to his unusual path to the Presidency. Running on President McKinley’s ticket for a second term, he would be sworn in after the Presidents passing. He also impressed the importance of the National Parks system, and how a country must use and develop its natural resources, but not in robbing the generations that follow.