Each month, the Grateful American™ Foundation blasts out a fact-filled educational magazine to alert our readers about out latest video interview, upcoming events for kids at the nation’s presidential and historic homes, fascinating historic facts, and more! Complete the form below to subscribe to the Grateful American™ Magazine!
“How do you write a book?” 24-year-old Thomas Fleming asked best-selling writer Fulton Oursler in 1951.
“Write four pages a day,” Oursler said. “Every day except Sunday. Whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration consists of putting the seat of your pants on the chair at your desk.”
Fleming followed that advice in the more than 50 books he wrote throughout his life.
His book, “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” was his 50th published work. Twenty-three of his books were novels. He was also the only writer in the history of the Book of the Month Club to have had main selections in fiction and in nonfiction. And, he won prizes.
Fleming told David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, that he sees “Intimate Lives” as a perfect combination of his double talent as a novelist and historian.
“Novelists focus on the intimate side of life,” said Fleming, who was born in Jersey City, the son of a powerful local politician. “This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans with a historian’s eyes.”
It was a pleasure to meet and interview Fleming in May 2014. We filmed the video on location at Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange, in New York City. We hope you’ll enjoy watching it as much as we did filming it.
Click here to watch the interview, in which Fleming answers these questions:
- What were the lives of the great figures in American history really like — including George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison?
- What role did the Founding Mothers play in the lives of these famous men — such as George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, who was known to be not particularly affectionate?
- How do the customs of the 18th century differ from today’s, including those related to courting, medicine, and hygiene?
- What makes it so important that their stories live on — especially in the minds of kids?
- And how can parents help their kids develop a passion for history?
Scroll down for a dozen fascinating facts about the founding era of our country.
A lot was happening in the Colonies during the summer of 1776. On July 2nd, the legal separation of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain occurred when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence — declared by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.
Congress then turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining the decision. The document had been prepared by a Committee of Five; thirty-three year old Thomas Jefferson was the lead author. The Continental Congress debated, revised the wording, and ratified it July 4th.
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
“On the evening of July 4, we can imagine that Patrick Henry was celebrating with his friends and family, for on the next day he will be sworn in as the first governor of a free, independent — and newly armed — Virginia,” Baird says.
Baird continues: “Little did Mr. Henry know that he would serve three consecutive one-year terms. In fact, for his famous ‘Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death’ speech, and the many other fiery speeches that he gave in his career, he came to be known as the voice of the American Revolution.”
What was it like to live during this exciting time in American history?
Scroll down for a fascinating history lesson by Baird, who shares the impassioned monologue he gives weekly to visitors at historic St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA — the site of Henry’s infamous speech. And be sure to watch our interview with Ray Baird on GratefulAmericanTV.com.
Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history for kids, and adults! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, GratefulAmericanFoundation.com / GratefulAmericanKids.com
It was the day before the presidential inauguration of 2017 when a school bus filled with students from Lake Forest Academy in Illinois pulled into the lot of George Washington’s Mount Vernon for a visit.
Their mission, explain Lake Forest Advanced Placement U.S. history teachers Suzy Vaughn and Christian Dozois (pictured below), was to explore the plantation that was home to the nation’s first U.S. president — and to learn about the treasures found in the stacks of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
“These students are very interested in history and politics,” explains Dozois.
“Being that we are in town to experience a historic occasion, we also thought it was essential that they see firsthand the places that they’d usually only read about in history books.”
What they saw throughout Mount Vernon didn’t disappoint Kayla, a high school junior: “I am realizing more and more how important it is to preserve history. Today, we had the chance to look up close at the leaders who lived during the American Revolution, and I think that’s really important because it makes it easier to understand what they did, and why they did it. I really enjoy getting to look into their daily lives.”
Scroll down to learn more about their trip — and discover how you and your family can use the resources at Mount Vernon to learn to think like a historian, too.
Susan Stein has studied and written about one of the nation’s most intriguing Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, for more than 20 years. As senior curator and vice president of museum programs at Jefferson’s beloved estate, Monticello, her main responsibility is running the curatorial department, where staff members research the objects and lives of those associated with Monticello. They also determine the physical presentation of the house; study, acquire, and care for collections; and develop exhibitions.
Stein is perhaps best known for the landmark exhibition and book, “The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello” (1993), and her work on the four shows/film at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center (2009).
Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history — for kids, and adults. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation and Grateful American™ Kids
It is with great pleasure that we dedicate the April 2017 issue of the Grateful American™ Magazine to the fifth U.S. president — James Monroe, born April 28, 1758.
He won the election of 1816 — the eighth quadrennial presidential election — which stretched over more than a month, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 4, 1816. Monroe’s ascendance to the highest office of the land followed the two-term presidency of Democratic-Republican James Madison. Monroe, who had served as Madison’s Secretary of State, faced very weak opposition from the Federalist Party and won the Electoral College vote 183 to 34.
The previous four years of American politics had been dominated by the effects of the War of 1812.
While the war had not ended in victory, the 1815 peace satisfied the American people, and the Democratic-Republicans received the credit for its conclusion. The Federalists discovered they were discredited by their opposition to the war, and the secessionist rhetoric from New England.
Madison had succeeded in achieving certain measures favored by the Federalists; for example, a national bank and protective tariffs. These successes gave the Federalists few issues to campaign on, which contributed to the overwhelming victory for the Democratic-Republicans. Learn more here.
Scroll down for historic insights on the inauguration of President Monroe by Dr. Cassandra Good, the associate editor of the The Papers of James Monroe at the University of Mary Washington, and author of “Founding Friendships.”
Slavery. It’s an issue that still exists today. In 2012, four teens founded Students Opposing Slavery at President Lincoln’s Cottage — the site where Lincoln spent one quarter of his presidency as he led the country through the Civil War and the consequences of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
June 2017 marks the 5th International Summit of Students Opposing Slavery, which has won awards for its power and importance in raising awareness about modern slavery — including the EdCom Award for Excellence in Programming from the American Alliance of Museums, and the Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
And, in October 2016, SOS received the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to monitor and combat this issue. Read More
February 20, 2017 is the third anniversary of David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American™ Foundation, an organization dedicated to restoring enthusiasm in American history — for kids, and adults!
David and I have been privileged to interview the historians at many of the nation’s preeminent presidential and historic homes, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon, President Lincoln’s Cottage, James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Then, last July 4, we took another step toward getting students excited about American history when we launched Grateful American™ Kids and started to feature kids as the stars of our videos. If you missed it, be sure to take a look at our first music video, “Grateful American™ Kids Rock,” featuring first, second, and third graders from The Steward School in Richmond, VA.
Last fall, fourth graders from another Richmond school, Sabot at Stony Point, helped bring Revolutionary Era painter Charles Willson Peale to life in the setting where several of his paintings are on display — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“Our goal is to have students teach students about what’s fascinating, fun, and fantastic about American history,” says Smith, an author and publisher based in Washington, DC, who writes and publishes books about figures in American history. “This year, we’ll be rolling out even more videos to inspire students and their families.” Read More
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, at the second Virginia Convention.
In attendance were 120 delegates, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, and Peyton Randolph. Dozens of British sympathizers were in the audience.
They met in Richmond “to avoid the wrath of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore who resided in Williamsburg,” explains Charles Wissinger, the casting director and Richmond-based actor who, with a cast of nine actors, regularly reenacts a portion of the Convention. “Henry’s words not only articulated the concept of liberty as an essential right — a philosophy drawn from the writings of Enlightenment scholars — but also inspired support during a critical turning point in uniting the Colonies against British rule.”
It was a pleasure to interview Charles Wissinger and Sarah Whiting, the executive director of the St. John’s Church Foundation. Whiting sits at the helm of this National Historic Landmark, which in addition to weekly reenactments is home to Richmond’s first public cemetery — the final resting place of important figures in American history such as George Wythe (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), and Elizabeth Arnold Poe (mother of writer Edgar Allan Poe). “There’s perhaps no better place to get a taste of the revolutionary spirit that forever altered the course of the nation,” Whiting says.
And scroll down for more of our Q&A with Wissinger and Whiting. — David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer
Revolutionary Era artist Charles Willson Peale’s long life spanned a period of dramatic changes in America, and in American art. Born near Annapolis, MD, on April 15, 1741, he died 85 years later in Philadelphia on Feb 22, 1827. His work, some of which hangs in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, depicts the historic people and places that existed when the Colonies were new.
To restore enthusiasm in American history for students K-12, we created Grateful AmericanKids.com. This month we’re releasing the first in a series of videos starring students. Special thanks to Richmond re-enactor Chris Dunn (who portrays Peale), and the 4th grade class from Richmond’s Sabot at Stony Point, who bring to life the story of this celebrated artist.
What can Grateful American™ Kids teach you about this extraordinary man and this family? Scroll down for a transcription of the script, and be sure to watch our video at GratefulAmericanTV.com. Then, find out if you know as much as a 4th grader by taking our quiz at the end of this article!
Here’s to kids teaching kids about American history! — Grateful American™ Foundation founder David Bruce Smith and Executive Producer Hope Katz Gibbs
The British conquered every American city at some stage of the Revolutionary War. So why did they lose the American Colonies to the patriots?
In his award-winning book, “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire,” author and historian Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy reinterprets this period of history.
Indeed, the book has won accolades from top institutions: O’Shaughnessy won the 2014 George Washington Book Prize, the New-York Historical Society Prize for American History, and the Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award. The book was also a finalist for the Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize for Military History and has even been translated into Chinese.
Since 2014, O’Shaughnessy has spoken to audiences about his work across the United States, Antigua, and his native England — while keeping up with his day jobs: He’s vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, he’s the Saunders director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.
Grateful American™ Foundation founder David Bruce Smith and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, caught up with O’Shaughnessy recently to hear what his life and work have been like since the acclaim.
Scroll down for their Q&A with O’Shaughnessy. And be sure to listen to the Grateful American™ Radio Show interview with him.
If you didn’t know much about Alexander Hamilton before the hit show “Hamilton” took Broadway by storm in 2015, odds are good that you are now quite familiar with the Founding Father who helped create our fiduciary system.
An American political philosopher and the author of the majority of the essays that comprise the Federalist Papers (a series of 85 essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new US Constitution), Hamilton was also the first secretary of the US Treasury.
What inspired “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to tell the essential story of the Founding Father, which he began developing into a musical in 2008?
Scroll down for more information about Hamilton, the musical, and more. And be sure to watch our video interview with Liam Strain, a historian and district ranger for a collection of individually legislated units of the National Park System — including Alexander Hamilton’s New York City home.
Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history for kids, and adults! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation
If you have never been excited about American history, you likely haven’t read one of Rosalyn Schanzer’s illustrated picture books.
Although the stories are written for children in elementary and middle school, the hardcover books are filled with so many interesting facts and such incredibly detailed artwork that they appeal to all ages.
Schanzer is a stickler for getting the details right, as you’ll learn below in the interview that our executive producer, Hope Katz Gibbs, did with this award-winning artist and writer.
We know that Abraham Lincoln — as well as several of the Founding Fathers — wanted to abolish slavery in the United States. But long before the Civil War, one man broke with his peers by arranging the freedom of his nearly 500 slaves.
His name was Robert Carter III, and on Sept. 5, 1791, this pillar of Virginia’s Colonial aristocracy wrote the “deed of gift.” This signed document voluntarily and without recompense transferred ownership from his possession to the men and women who had been his slaves.
Yet, despite Carter’s courageous move — or perhaps because of it — his name has all but vanished from the annals of American history, according to Andrew Levy, author of The First Emancipator, which explores the confluence of circumstance, conviction, war, and emotion that led to Carter’s extraordinary act.
As Levy points out, “Carter was not the only humane master, nor the sole partisan of emancipation, in that freedom-loving age. So why did he dare to do what other visionary slave owners only dreamed of?”
Scroll down for our Q&A with the author, who is also the Edna Cooper Chair in English at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, The Grateful American™ Foundation • Grateful American™ Kids
David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American™ Foundation is proud to release the “Grateful American™ Kids Rock!” music video, which stars 30 students from The Steward School in Richmond, VA, who rap and dance to lyrics that honor America’s Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers.
The students include:
- Kindergarteners: Ava, Ozzie, Gabe, and Grady
- First Graders: Kadan, Lucky, Jennifer, Tison, Virginia, Dylan, Scarlett, Hanna, and Nora
- Second Graders: Colby (as Thomas Jefferson), Kamran, Nadine, Jack, Karina, and James
- Third Graders: Lillie Grace (as Dolley Madison), Luke (as Alexander Hamilton), Kamillah, Luna, Jadyn, Spencer (as George Washington), Nels, Marc (Ben Franklin), Sadie, Jordyn, and Anne
Special thanks to Bonnie Anderson and John McAlister, the maestros at The Steward School who put music to the words and taught the students to rock out with history. Thanks also to Cary Jamieson, director of the Bryan Innovation Lab at the Steward School, and Rachel Williard, director of marketing and communications. And kudos to the marvelous moms at The Steward School who supplied all the costumes and helped dress 30 students.
As the winner of the 2016 George Washington Prize, author Flora Fraser was awarded the $50,000 prize for her book, “The Washingtons: George and Martha, ‘Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love.’”
A noted biographer whose work has focused on the women behind great men of history, Fraser says: “I feel greatly the honor that has been accorded ‘The Washingtons,’ as George and Martha’s marriage was an inspiring partnership to chart. This is an accolade I shall long treasure.”
Conferred by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the award was presented to Fraser on May 25 at a black-tie gala at the Mount Vernon estate.
Since 2005 the prize has been one of the largest literary awards, which honors the best new works about the nation’s founding, especially those that engage a broad public audience.
One of the things that makes Fraser’s book so intriguing is that few primary sources exist on the life of Martha Washington, because she destroyed all but one of the couple’s personal letters.
Fraser’s diligent research has resulted in a more comprehensive understanding of the nation’s first first lady — and through her important story, a fuller sense of the nation’s first president. Fraser portrays a couple devoted to each other and steadfast in their loyalty: from their short courtship, through raising a family at Mount Vernon, to the long years of the Revolutionary War, to the first US presidency, and to retirement at their beloved Virginia plantation.
Scroll down for our Q&A with Fraser. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation
The process of awarding the 2016 honor began in February, when Washington College announced seven finalists for the prestigious George Washington Prize — an annual award that recognizes the year’s best-written works on the nation’s founding era, especially those that have the potential to advance broad public understanding of early American history.
Created in 2005 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington College, the $50,000 George Washington Prize is one of the nation’s largest and most notable literary awards. Past recipients have included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The winner of the George Washington Prize will be announced at a black-tie event on May 25.
This year’s finalists represent the depth of new scholarship and the broad expanse of inquiry into the diversity of people and the political, geographic, economic, and social forces that shaped the American Revolution and the early republic.
The seven authors immerse readers into settings that include domestic life at Mount Vernon, a bloody battle on the banks of the Monongahela River, multi-ethnic settlements along the Gulf Coast, onboard ships with revolutionaries crisscrossing the Atlantic world, a depleted encampment at Valley Forge, a contentious convention in Philadelphia in 1787, and the Weehawken dueling grounds at dawn. These are places where well- and little-known stories of our nation’s past unfolded; Revolutionary War leaders were forged, and the ideas of liberty, democracy, and republicanism were tested.
Scroll down to read more about the 2016 George Washington Prize finalists! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, the Grateful American™ Foundation
In the heart of London stands the Benjamin Franklin House, the home where he lived between 1757 and 1775.
Built circa 1730, the terraced Georgian edifice at 36 Craven Street is the only surviving former residence of one of America’s most famous Founding Fathers. Today it is a vibrant museum and educational facility that features his beloved scientific discoveries, from lightning rods to hydrodynamics.
The top floor is the Robert H. Smith Scholarship Centre, which focuses on historical documents including the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, which are sponsored by The American Philosophical Society and Yale University.
What savvy governing agreements was Franklin working out while in London to benefit the United States? Who helped to preserve the c. 1730 residence? Which famous dignitaries have visited the museum in recent years? And what happened to Franklin’s famous home and shop in Philadelphia?
Scroll down for our Q&A with Márcia Balisciano, founding director of the Benjamin Franklin House. She is also the director of corporate responsibility for the global media group Reed Elsevier; previously, she served as adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce in Britain, and to the documentary film project “50 Lessons.”
One of 28 international women featured in a book and exhibition for the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, she is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Economic History from the London School of Economics. Balisciano was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours List.
Here’s to bringing history to life! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, the Grateful American™ Foundation
When it comes to restoring enthusiasm for American history, David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American™ Foundation likes to shine a spotlight on the people and organizations that are the best teachers of the topic.
So it’s a great pleasure to interview Professor Richard Semiatin (pictured right), academic director of American politics at American University, who is part of its Washington Semester Program.
In addition to having spent decades studying politicians and elections, he is the author of “Campaigns in the 21st Century” (McGraw-Hill, 2004), and editor of all three editions of “Campaigns on the Cutting Edge” (CQ Press: 2008, 2012, and 2016). The third edition, available here, was released in February.
In the book, Semiatin explains that the evolution of the modern political campaign has taken us from television sets in the living room to wireless new media in the hands of voters.
“Reaching voters with targeted messages, candidates increasingly rely on consumer-driven techniques,” he writes. “What works at the national level can be tailored to work even more effectively at the individual level. Future campaigns will continue to make use of recent innovations like meetups, blogs, and Internet polling.
“Newer tactics such as fundraising on the web and get-out-the-vote drives with microtargeting via mobile devices are changing the way candidates advertise, ask for money, interact with the media, coordinate with their party organizations, and make the most of interest group support.”
What, then, are the implications for the democratic process and governance? And who does Semiatin think will be our next president?
Scroll down to learn about that, and more. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation
The complex relationship between Thomas Jefferson and slavery has been studied extensively and debated by his biographers and scholars.
The owner of more than 600 slaves throughout his life, Jefferson acquired them by inheritance, marriage, the birth of children to enslaved people, and trade from the time he turned 21. In 1764, he inherited 5,000 acres and 52 slaves after his father’s death. More followed in 1772 upon his marriage to widow Martha Wayles Skelton when her father, John, gave Jefferson two plantations and an additional 135 slaves.
By 1776, Jefferson was one of the largest planters in Virginia. The value of his property (land and slaves) was increasingly offset by his growing debts, which made it very difficult to free them; they were “assets.”
To learn more about Jefferson and his relationship to his slaves, we traveled to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to interview historian Christa Dierksheide, an expert on Jefferson and slavery. Scroll down to read more. — Grateful American™ Foundation executive producer Hope Katz Gibbs and founder David Bruce Smith
The last president who is considered a Founding Father is James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States (1817-1825).
His image is depicted in many famous paintings from the Revolutionary War era — including the iconic image by German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
Born in Westmoreland County, VA, Monroe was wounded in the Battle of Trenton, taking a musket ball in the shoulder. He served under Washington — and in fact is the only other president who was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
We visited one of Monroe’s homes, Ash Lawn-Highland, in Albemarle County, VA, where we interviewed historian Cassandra Good, associate editor of the Papers of James Monroe at the University of Mary Washington.
Good (pictured right) explains how the former governor of Virginia rose to national prominence as a diplomat in France and eventually became president. We also learn more about the man who:
- Studied law under Thomas Jefferson — Monroe’s lifelong friend, mentor, and political ally,
- Served as a delegate in the Continental Congress, and
- Changed the direction of America’s foreign policy.
Scroll down for our Q&A with Good to find out why President Monroe was the Forrest Gump of the 18th century.
— Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, and David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, dedicated to restoring enthusiasm in American history for kids, and adults!
We celebrate the holidays and end 2015 with a tribute to the suffragists, who gave so much to ensure women would get the right to vote.
It was our pleasure to interview the leaders of the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association: Executive Director Pat Wirth and honorary board member and historian Edie Mayo. Along with dozens of others, they are working hard to build a monument close to the Fairfax County, VA, spot where women were imprisoned.
“Our vision is to raise awareness and funds to create a memorial that will reflect the strength of these women and the significance of their struggle,” explains Wirth, pictured far left below. “We are now raising funds to complete construction and have the national memorial fully operational by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment.”
The garden-style national memorial will be grand, adds historian Edie Mayo, shown far right in adjacent photo. “It will commemorate the suffrage struggle; educate, inspire, and empower present and future generations to remain vigilant in the quest for equal rights.”
Scroll down to read our interview with Wirth and Mayo in this issue of Grateful American™ Magazine. — David Bruce Smith, founder (shown center in above photo), and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive director (standing)
Did you know that before former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy lived in the White House, the first families took their furnishings with them after their terms were over?
Mrs. Kennedy thought better of that practice, and believed it was important for the “People’s House” to preserve American history and showcase the best of American culture. In 1961, she was instrumental in the founding of The White House Historical Association — a private, nonprofit organization with a big mission — to enhance the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the White House.
Working with the National Park Service, the curator of the White House, the White House chief usher, and the “first family” — the WHHA is responsible for the care, conservation, and interpretation of the historic staterooms of the White House Executive Residence and larger White House Complex.
We are thrilled to interview historian William Bushong, the chief White House historian and VP of the WHHA since 1997. Scroll down for our Q&A. — David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer
What drew nearly 600,000 students from around the world to prepare exhibits, documentaries, papers, performances, and websites for the annual National History Day competition?
It’s not the monetary awards, though there are some. Instead, it’s the recognition they receive for their work from judges — and peers. That’s what makes a National History Day medal so intrinsically valuable, says National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn.
The finals of the June 2015 competition drew more than 3,000 middle and high school students to present their work at the 41st annual National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. All the entries were related to the 2015 theme, “Leadership and Legacy in History,” and the contestants came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and international schools in Central America, China, Korea, and South Asia.
Dr. Gorn explains what makes so many students passionate about history in this month’s Q&A with Grateful American™ Foundation founder David Bruce Smith, and executive producer Hope Katz Gibbs. Read all about it!
In January 1936, during the Great Depression, Virginia’s political and business leaders bravely demonstrated their faith in the future and their belief in the value of art by opening the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
The original English Renaissance-style building was designed by Peebles and Ferguson Architects of Norfolk. And in the years since, there have been five expansions, including the most recent (completed in 2010), designed by Rick Mather.
This beautiful renovation houses the museum’s permanent collection, of 33,000 works of art from almost every major world culture — such as Paul Revere’s silver teapots and stands, circa 1790 (pictured above). Created for the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the museum’s art enriches visitors and it’s free admission enhances access.
In our interview with the museum director, Alex Nyerges, (pictured right) we gained insight into the strong ties between art history and American history. Scroll down for our Q&A. — David Bruce Smith, founder, Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation
And be sure to stay tuned for more of our monthly episodes of the Grateful American™ TV show at GratefulAmericanTV.com.
However, Jefferson’s taste for fine wines wasn’t well developed before he was sent to Paris by Congress to join Americans Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (August 1784 to September 1789) as diplomats there. Back then, Jefferson mostly drank sweet wines, such as port and sherry.
“But his taste began to change during the Revolutionary War,” according to Gabriele Rausse, Monticello’s director of gardens and grounds. “Once Jefferson discovered French wines, he became enchanted.”
Rausse refers to a famous quote thought to have been said or written by Jefferson to pioneering American viticulturalist John Adlum, who corresponded extensively with Jefferson. Speaking of the Catawba grape, Jefferson is believed to have said: “In bringing this grape into public notice, I have rendered my country a greater service, than I would have done, had I paid the national debt.”
So don’t miss our interview below with Rausse, who gives us a history lesson and tour of the vineyard at Jefferson’s magnificent Monticello.
As we celebrate the 231st anniversary of Jefferson’s departure for France — we lift our glasses to discoveries yet to be made. Cheers! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation
From the statue of Honest Abe and his horse, Old Bob, standing proud at President Lincoln’s Cottage in DC, to the much-touched bronze of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and the iconic statue of George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon, Ivan Schwartz and his team at StudioEIS in Brooklyn, NY, are prolific and talented. It was a pleasure to interview him last month at his studio. Scroll down for our Q&A. And be sure to watch our interview on GratefulAmericanTV.com.
All month long we’re celebrating our nation’s independence! We mark the occasion on our website with a new column: Words of Wisdom. We hope you’ll start your day with inspiration from the Founding Fathers and Mothers, US presidents and first ladies, and other influential Americans who helped shape the nation.
Here’s one of our favorites from Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”
Happy Birthday™ America! — David Bruce Smith and the Grateful American™ team
When it comes to having a deep knowledge and understanding of the history of the United States, how much do you really know? “It might be less than you think,” writes Saba Naseem on Smithsonian.com, which asked Grateful American™ Foundation founder David Bruce Smith what he believes can be done to fix this problem. Click here to learn what he has to say.
Because we always want to increase your history IQ: This month, we bring you an interview from News Channel 8’s “Let’s Talk Live,” where Smith and historian Allida Black give us a glimpse into what the country might have been like had President Lincoln not been assassinated 150 years ago. Click here to watch their TV appearance.
That’s not all: On May 20, we attended the 2015 Washington Book Prize at Mount Vernon, where one of four finalists was named the winner of this year’s $50,000 prize. Who took home this coveted honor? Scroll down to find out. And click on the links below to read our Q&As with the other three finalists, who are featured this month in our growing History Book Club.
Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history for you, and your kids. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, the Grateful American™ Foundation
That’s one of the questions that we asked Allida Black, a research professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, during her appearance on the Grateful American™ Radio Show.
Black is also the founding editor of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, which is designed to preserve, teach, and apply Eleanor Roosevelt’s writings and discussions of human rights and democratic politics.
Her many honors include the 2001 Person of Vision Award (from the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women) and the James A. Jordan Award for Outstanding Dedication and Excellence in Teaching (from Penn State University).
Black has also written four books related to Eleanor Roosevelt as well as teacher guides for PBS documentaries.
Scroll down for our interview with Black, which airs on the Grateful American™ Radio Show, about what America might have become had Lincoln lived.
— Grateful American™ Foundation’s David Bruce Smith and executive producer Hope Katz Gibbs
April 14, 2015, is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
He was shot during an evening performance at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, by John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer, and Lincoln died the next morning. The attack came only five days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil War.
What made Booth want to kill the president?
To find out, we interviewed Civil War expert Adam Goodheart, author of “1861” and the upcoming “1865” — two books that capture the essence of that era.
A historian, essayist, and journalist, Goodheart’s articles have appeared in National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. Goodheart is also the director of Washington College’s C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He splits his time living there and in Washington, DC.
Scroll down to read our Q&A, and click here to listen to the entire interview as a podcast on the Grateful American™ Radio Show. And be sure to watch the recent appearance of Goodheart and Smith on News Channel 8’s “Let’s Talk Live,” which is posted on Grateful American™ TV Show. — David Bruce Smith, Founder, Grateful American™ Foundation, and Hope Katz Gibbs, Executive Producer, Grateful American™ Series
The museum has in its collection more than 3 million artifacts, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” sheet music written by Duke Ellington, and an authentic 199-ton, 92-foot-long Southern Railway locomotive.
There are also wigs from Latina American singer and “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz, a Russian space suit worn by Sandra Bullock in the movie “Gravity” (2013), a Conestoga wagon — and more than two-dozen gowns worn by some of the nation’s most beloved First Ladies.
The man who presides over all of the fascinating artifacts of the nation’s history and culture — and its $34 million budget, plus the renewal of the museum’s large West Exhibition Wing — is John Gray, who has been the director of the National Museum of American History since July 2012.
We recently talked with John Gray in his corner office atop the museum. Scroll down for our Q&A, and learn why he says history “is the most fascinating subject anybody could ever try to understand.” Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history for kids, and their parents, too. — David Bruce Smith, Founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, Executive Producer, The Grateful American™ Foundation
By David Bruce Smith
The Grateful American™ Foundation
When the sun would set along the Potomac River, Martha and George Washington could invariably be found sipping cocktails on the veranda of their Virginia home. As they enjoyed a cool gin and tonic, they’d talk about the day’s events and watch the children who lived with them play on the grass.
My co-host, Hope Katz Gibbs, and I recently interviewed Curt Viebranz, president and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Viebranz (shown here) was appointed to his position by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in September 2012. An experienced media executive and entrepreneur with a passion for American history and a longstanding commitment to community service, Viebranz has more than 20 years of experience at major multinational Internet and cable enterprises.
Prior to his appointment at Mount Vernon, he served as president of HBO International, the global arm of Time Warner’s Home Box Office unit, and he was the first president of Time Inc. Multimedia. Viebranz has also helped launch and grow several media-related start-ups, and after he joined AOL in 2007 he oversaw advertising sales and strategy for all of AOL’s owned and operated sites.
Scroll down to “Is George Washington Your Favorite Founding Father?” for our Q&A with Viebranz, who shared many interesting facts about our nation’s first presidential couple.
Have you had the pleasure of visiting the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library?
With my co-host, Hope Katz Gibbs, I was happy to travel to New York City and interview Louise Mirrer (pictured here), the president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. Since 2004, she has raised more than $100 million to honor the history of New York.
The Historical Society opened in 1804, when it was more of a club for the city’s elite.
But in the 200 years since, it has been transformed into a thriving gallery, filled with more than 60,000 artifacts, that has been visited by people from around the world.
“The organization is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its continuing influence on today’s world,” explains Mirrer.
Scroll down to “Tour the NYHS With CEO Louise Mirrer” for our Q&A.
Also in this issue:
- This Month in History: Here’s a quick quiz — Which two historical figures were born on the same day? Read all about it in the righthand column under “This Month in History.”
- In the News: The Wall Street Journal reports: “Civics Instruction Moves Up in Class.” According to reporter Caroline Porter, “After years on the back burner of the nation’s educational agenda, civics is making a comeback, with a number of states mandating new classes or assessments and a burgeoning national push for high-school seniors to pass the exam required of new citizens.” More information here.
- Events: And don’t miss the fabulous events happening at all of the historic and presidential homes in January. See a partial list at the end of the righthand column, or click here to view the complete list.
Here’s to a wonderful 2015, and to the Grateful American™ Foundation continuing to restore enthusiasm in American history. — David Bruce Smith, Founder
George Washington was a visionary, says Douglas Bradburn, PhD, shown right, founding director of the Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon. But Washington was also a man of action who wanted to make a difference in the “here and now.”
Gaining a fuller understanding of Washington — as both “a flawed human being, but an extraordinary man” — is the focus of the Library, which opened in the fall of 2013. The Library fosters new scholarly research about the first president and the era in which he lived.
Bradburn’s intention is for the Library to become “the leading center for the study of George Washington and the founding of the United States so that anyone working seriously to interpret the past will feel like they need to spend at least some time in our Library, as a fellow, a researcher, or a participant in one of our programs.”
Scroll down to read Bradburn’s thoughts about Washington as businessman, husband and father, slave owner, and spymaster.
So it was a pleasure for Grateful American™ Radio Show co-hosts Hope Katz Gibbs and David Bruce Smith to travel to Waterford, VA — headquarters of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (JTHG) — to interview Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the organization.
Wyatt’s mission is to shine a spotlight on the National Heritage Area that runs from Gettysburg, PA, through Maryland and West Virginia, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.
The historical land, stretching 180 miles long and 75 miles wide, includes:
- Nine presidential homes and birthplaces,
- More than 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, and
- Sites from the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War, War of 1812, and the Civil War.
This historic region is home not only to beautiful houses, charming towns, and battlefields, but also to 13 of the nation’s 400 national parks.
Scroll down for the Q&A, and click “play” below to to watch this episode of the Grateful American™ TV Show with Cate Magennis Wyatt.
His fascinating, in-depth tales are page-turners—especially his “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers.” What did George Washington do that amazed Fleming? What did John Adams’ mother do that had a negative impact on her presidential son? And who is Fleming’s favorite Founding Father?
I enjoyed every page of this fascinating book, and I think you will, too. First, take a look at the interview that my GratefulAmericanTV.com co-host Hope Katz Gibbs and I did with Tom by clicking here.
Also this past month, I was honored to be interviewed by Jim Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. At the helm of this organization since 1997, Basker has overseen the development of history education initiatives nationwide—plus seminars for history teachers, traveling exhibitions, digital archives, and the National History Teacher of the Year Award program. Click here to learn more.
We leave you with this fascinating fact from this month in history: October 17, 1777 — British Gen. John Burgoyne and his entire army of 5,700 men surrender to the Americans, led by Major Gen. Horatio Gates, after the Battles of Saratoga. The British are then marched to Boston, placed on ships, and sent back to England after swearing not to serve again in the war against America.
News of the American victory at Saratoga soon travels to Europe and boosts support of the American cause. In Paris the victory is celebrated as if it had been a French victory. Benjamin Franklin is received by the French Royal Court. France then recognizes America’s independence.
Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history! — David Bruce Smith, president and chairman of the board, Grateful American Foundation.
The dramatic event happened on Aug. 24, 1814, during the War of 1812. British troops marched into Washington, DC, and burned the White House in retaliation for the American attack two years earlier on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, explains Kat Imhoff (pictured right), who is president and CEO of The Montpelier Foundation.
“When the British arrived at the White House, they found that President James Madison and his first lady, Dolley, had already fled to safety in Maryland,” Imhoff says. “The soldiers reportedly sat down to eat a meal made of leftover food from the White House scullery using White House dishes and silver before ransacking the presidential mansion and setting it ablaze.”
In fact, that was just one of the momentous events of Madison’s presidency that Imhoff told my co-host Hope Katz Gibbs and me about during our interview with her for our latest episode of GratefulAmericanTV.com. Scroll down to click on the link to watch this episode, and to read our Q&A.
Also in this issue: You’ll learn some fascinating facts about why First Lady Dolley Madison was so iconic, and about an exhibit on display at Montpelier this month. And, Tim Bailey, the 2009 National History Teacher of the Year, explains why learning about history is so important for kids, and adults.
We hope you enjoy this issue of the Grateful American™ Newsletter, and we look forward to sharing more fascinating facts with you next month. — David Bruce Smith, founder and chairman of the board, Grateful American™ Foundation
Hello, I’m David Bruce Smith, and I thank you for taking time to learn more about the Grateful American™ Foundation, which produces an interactive, multimedia educational series designed to restore enthusiasm in American history for kids, and adults.
On July 4, 2014, my team and I launched our new website, GratefulAmericanFoundation.com. Each month, we’ll be updating it with articles, radio podcasts, and TV episodes based on the interviews we are conducting with the directors of the nation’s most popular presidential and historic homes—from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. I’ll be your host, as will Hope Katz Gibbs, president of Inkandescent Publishing, and the executive producer of the Grateful American™ Series.
In the coming years, our goal is to feature all 44 presidents and their first ladies, as well as people through history who have made a tremendous impact on who we are as a nation. Read More