We humans remember the departed. Frequently we honor them. This is even more true for our leaders. How we choose to remember, is part of what defines a culture.
The most famous example of remembering dead leaders is, of course, the pyramids. They already were a tourist destination thousands of years ago thousands of years after they had been built. By contrast, in America one would be hard-pressed to identify where an American president is buried. In New York, we have Grant’s Tomb. I frequently watch the double-decker buses stop on Riverside Drive and disgorge the tourists who angle for shots of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and Grant’s Tomb.
Mount Rushmore Carver Luigi Del Bianco
Another already famous Egyptian tourist destination in ancient times was the Sphinx. In this instance a king used an existing rock outcropping to carve his own face. The famous American equivalent is Mount Rushmore, where four presidents share a mountain face. As it turns out the chief carver of Mount Rushmore was Luigi Del Bianco of the Village of Port Chester in the town of Rye where I live.
On June 21, due to the tireless efforts of his grandson Lou Del Bianco a (much smaller) monument was unveiled in his honor. Local examples of Del Bianco’s work can be found locally. His grandson performed in the musical Flasbacks, the history of the town, which was performed for all the 4th graders in the village last September.
A book Carving a Niche for Himself: The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco has just been published. The story is part of the Italian immigrant story of living the American dream, but will the students who walk past the new monument daily ever study him in school? Or will he be forgotten like the other statues and memorials which dot the village?
Will a Port Chester Path to History be created to include such monuments and memorials? Imhotep, the Egyptian architect of the first pyramid, was elevated to divine status and worshiped thousands of years later by the Greeks, so you never know how our carver, Luigi Del Bianc, will be remembered.
A Presidential Library For Obama In NY?
Another way an ancient leader might be remembered is with a library. Alexander the Great had his library at Alexandria, a treasure of ancient texts was destroyed. Another ancient library is that of the 7th-century BCE Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, in which was found the epic of Gilgamesh.
Today, libraries are the way we remember our presidents, even before they have died. From humble beginnings under FDR, presidential libraries have become major institutions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Every president is expected to leave a library.
While all eyes are focused on the World Cup, another competition is under way: to be the site for the Obama Library. In a previous post on this subject, I opined that Chicago was the likely location, but I may have written in haste. The University of Chicago might seem like an appropriate location given his tenure there but it is an elitist institution surrounded by an area of great trauma. Indeed there have been local demonstrations on behalf of building a trauma center in the neighborhood because that is what the local community needs. Shelling out big bucks for a presidential library may not go over well with many residents. As one CNN contributor put it, “Hawaii is looking better and better, isn’t it?”
Then there is Columbia University where Obama was an undergraduate. In my post, I suggested that with a massive expansion already underway in the Manhattanville section of Manhattan, there may not be room there for a presidential library. However, as it turns out, when the June 16 deadline neared, Columbia did submit a bid for precisely that location and with the support of the Mayor and the Governor.
A fully-detailed proposal is not due at this time and with the rumors that he might prefer to live in New York after his presidency anyway, anything is possible.