Two days before the end of his one-term presidency, Donald Trump’s administration released a wide-ranging list of public figures it ordered to be included as statues in its proposed “National Garden of American Heroes” — including Canadian native Alex Trebek.
The inclusion of the Jeopardy host and other celebrities (including celebrated political theorist and immigrant Hannah Arendt) drew media coverage as well as online scrutiny when the full list was released via executive order on January 18 2021. Trebek, who died of pancreatic cancer in November 2020, was one of 244 people from various walks of life listed in the amended executive order.
While Trebek was born in Canada, he held dual citizenship after becoming a naturalized citizen in the U.S. in 1997, according to the Associated Press.
Trump first announced the garden project during a speech at Mount Rushmore on July 4 2020, painting it as a response to demonstrations around the United States against police brutality and racism, during which monuments depicting Confederate figures were torn down.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” Trump said at the time. “This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped.”
The order announcing the creation of the various statues has similarly hostile language. It reads in part:
The National Garden is America’s answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life. On its grounds, the devastation and discord of the moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism. This is the American way. When the forces of anti-Americanism have sought to burn, tear down, and destroy, patriots have built, rebuilt, and lifted up. That is our history. America responded to the razing of the White House by building it back in the same place with unbroken resolve, to the murders of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national temple and the Stone of Hope, and to the terrorism of 9/11 with a new Freedom Tower. In keeping with this tradition, America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration.
The updated order was released four days after the arrest of Kevin Seefried, a Trump supporter who took part in the seditious attack against the U.S. Capitol on Janury 6 2021, and who was photographed walking inside the building carrying a flag of the Confederacy.