When Gutzon Borglum teamed up with Hearst newspapers in 1934 to sponsor a contest, Hearst's five million readers learned they had a chance to write an inscription to be carved in stone on Mount Rushmore. Though the inscription was never added to the mountain, the contest generated tremendous publicity for Borglum's project -- and produced a few lucky winners.
This submission, by a young Nebraskan named William Andrew Burkett, triumphed in the college-age category. Burkett won a four-year college scholarship and moved to California, achieving great success in business. He claimed he owed his good fortune to winning the contest. and later said he wanted to be buried near the monument. Eventually, Burkett had his essay inscribed on a bronze tablet and installed at Rushmore.
Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores, God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.
Consequently, on July 4, 1776, our forefathers promulgated a principle never before successfully asserted, that life, liberty, equality, and pursuit of happiness were the birthrights of all mankind. In this declaration of independence beat a heart for all humanity. It declared this country free from British rule and announced the inalienable sovereignty of the people. Freedom's soldiers victoriously consecrated this land with their life's blood to be free forever more.
Then, in 1787, for the first time a government was formed that derived its just powers from the consent of the governed. General Washington and representatives from the 13 states formed this sacred Constitution, which embodies our faith in God and in mankind by giving equal participation in government to all citizens, distributing that powers of governing, threefold securing freedom of speech and of the press, establishing the right to worship the Infinite according to conscience, and assuring this nation's general welfare against an embattled world. This chart of national guidance has for more than 150 years weathered the ravages of time. Its supreme trial came under the pressure of civil war, 1861-65. The deadly doctrines of secession and slavery were then purged away in blood. The seal of the Union's finality set by President Lincoln, was accomplished like all our triumphs of law and humanity, through the wisdom and the power of an honest, Christian heart.
Far-sighted American statesmanship acquired by treaties, vast wilderness territories, where progressive, adventurous Americans spread civilization and Christianity.
In 1803, Louisiana was purchased from France. This acquisition extended from the Mississippi river, across the fertile prairie to the Rocky mountains, and paved the way for America's pre-eminence among the nations.
In 1819, the picturesque Florida peninsula was ceded as payment of Spanish obligations due to Americans.
In 1845, Texas, having patterned American democracy during the 10 years of freedom from Mexican rule, accepted the invitation to join the sisterhood of states. In 1846, the Oregon country was peacefully apportioned by the 49th parallel as the compromised international boundary of the two English-speaking nations.
In 1848, California and territory likewise rich in natural resources was acquired as the consequence of an inevitable conflict with Mexico. In spirit of mutual concession, the United States granted additional indemnities for the adjustment of the international boundary, extending form the Rio Grande to the Gulf of California.
In 1850, Texas willingly ceded the disputed Rio Grande region, thus ending the dramatic acquisition of the west.
In 1867, Alaska was purchased from Russia.
In 1904, the Panama Canal Zone was acquired for our people to build a navigable highway enabling the world's people to share the fruits of the earth and of human industry.
Now, these eras are welded into a nation possessing unity, liberty, power, integrity and faith in God, with responsible development of character and devoted to the performance of humanitarian duty.
Holding no fear of the economic and political, chaotic clouds hovering over the earth, the consecrated Americans dedicate this nation before God, to exalt righteousness and to maintain mankind's constituted liberties so long as the earth shall endure.
The coal miners' battle for dignity led to the largest armed insurrection since the American Civil War.
The most daring and innovative accomplishment at the turn of the 20th century.
In 1927, the Mississippi River flooded from New Orleans to Illinois, leaving a million people homeless and leading to a major black migration to the North.
Before radar had been invented a devastating hurricane hit America, surprising residents of the East Coast and killing more than 600 people.
President Theodore Roosevelt was caught in the middle of the first major battle for wilderness preservation in Yosemite National Park.
John Wesley Powell's epic journey into the unknown Grand Canyon was filled with adventure as his team mapped the Colorado River for the first time.
A personal story of one family's dramatic effort to hold onto their family farm in Iowa as massive foreclosures sweep the nation in the 1990s.
This stunning film portrait of Yosemite National Park uses the 1851 diary of the first expedition of soldiers into the Native American territory.