I love United States history. It’s a young history, but a rich one. Growing up in the greater Philadelphia area, I loved learning about the people who lived there before me: the Lenni-Lenape, the Quakers, the Founding Fathers (and Mothers!). There’s much to be learned from the wisdom – and mistakes – of those who came before us. Something that has always vexed me; however, is the fact that so few of the historical figures I admire seem to get the attention they deserve.
As some in our nation grapple with removing reverential tributes to historical figures who do not exemplify American values, I see an opportunity. Let’s retire the tributes to darker periods in our history. Instead, let’s take this moment to elevate those who have been under-celebrated for far too long. Let’s commission artists to create new sculptures and memorials in their honor. Let’s launch capital campaigns to rebuild community centers and toast them by dedicating new and improved buildings in their names. Let’s throw miles of block parties to celebrate the renaming of a great thoroughfare after an American hero. We’re not losing our history – we are expanding our history!
There is an astounding depth and diversity of amazing individuals in our history. Let’s embrace it. In no particular order, here are some of the American heroes whom I’d love to put on a pedestal in my local park. Who would you add to this list?