Last year Joe Biden showed how much he cared about celebrating America when he stopped fireworks on the Fourth of July at South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore. This was after Trump brought them back after Obama had also canceled them. Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota tells her story on the matter.

Noem: “We’re disappointed there won’t be fireworks here this year. At the last minute, when President Biden came into office, the National Park Service pulled our permit to host the fireworks,” Noem told Fox News last year in an exclusive interview at the base of Mount Rushmore.

“They don’t want to celebrate America by honoring these founders on our mountain that led our country through challenging times,” she said. “They have been taking down monuments across this country, and South Dakota has stood here and proudly held up our former leaders, recognizing that we can learn everything from everybody in the past that has led us. We never once said they were perfect, but we did say they were important to the foundation of this country, our freedoms and the constitution that still keeps America special.” But it wasn’t always that way…

Noem: In December 2018, shortly after I was elected governor, President Trump invited several governors-elect to Washington to talk about our priorities and see where he might be able to help. Knowing the president’s bias for action, I understood that bringing up matters we could tackle right off the bat would increase the chances of getting them done. They would also be far more likely to warrant the president’s personal involvement…

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“And lastly, Mr. President,” I said, “I’d like your help getting fireworks back to Mount Rushmore.” He immediately perked up. “Fireworks? What do you mean?”

I told him that South Dakota had a long tradition of a fireworks celebration on top of Mount Rushmore every Fourth of July eve. But for ten years, I explained, the display had been canceled — ever since the Obama administration had barred them, claiming that the fireworks might trigger “environmental concerns.”

“Mr. President, this is South Dakota’s one opportunity to really become the focus of the nation for one night each year.” Bringing fireworks back to Mount Rushmore would be an incredible tribute to freedom in our country — a western sky lit with red, white, and blue fireworks illuminating some of our nation’s greatest leaders. Beyond that, tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry. Marketing our state on national television on America’s birthday had always been incredibly beneficial for us.

It made sense to President Trump. And from that moment on, he was fixated on getting us our fireworks back. My team and I worked diligently with the Department of Interior and the White House for almost two years straight on logistics and planning. Every time I saw President Trump in that time, without fail, he would ask, “Kristi, how are we coming along on our fireworks?”

“We are working it, Mr. President,” I assured him. The truth was that bureaucrats within his own administration were trying to stop it. For starters, the National Park Service (NPS) did not want to facilitate the event. NPS staff brought up fire concerns, water-quality concerns, cultural concerns, and, once the pandemic hit, health concerns. At one point, a staffer even asked, “How could this event offend people on Twitter?” I kid you not.

My office made repeated requests to meet with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to get an agreement signed, permits obtained, and the planning process underway. When Secretary Bernhardt was slated to speak at the Western Governors Association in Vail, Colorado, in June 2019, I finally had an opportunity to speak with him directly.

It was months after my June meeting with Secretary Bernhardt before we heard anything from the federal government. Stop and think about that for a minute. The president of the United States — the “leader of the free world” — was in favor of returning fireworks to Mount Rushmore. The secretary of interior — who was appointed by the president — was in favor of returning fireworks to Mount Rushmore. And — not for nothing — the governor of the state in which Mount Rushmore exists was in favor of returning fireworks to Mount Rushmore.

This piece was written by Jim Gunner on June 27, 2022. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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