Event — Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington

2016 Gay Hart Gaines Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of American History

Where: Smith Auditorium, George Washington’s Mount Vernon

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon, VA, 22121

When: Wednesday, November 2, 2016, 7:00 pm

Details: The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is proud to present this educational series delivered by the Gay Hart Gaines Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in American History, a position established to honor the Association’s 18th Regent through the generosity of Lewis E. Lehrman, co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. This series is designed to provide a deeper understanding of, and expertise in, a particular subject related to George Washington.

Washington and Politics: In His Life, and After — Richard Brookhiser

In 2016 the United States will hold its 58th presidential election. The framers of the Constitution designed the office of the president with George Washington in mind. He won the first two presidential elections without opposition and saw the birth of the first two-party system. After his death he served as a symbol for the nation and an example for the men who aspired to fill his shoes. What did Washington think of the American political process? What did his peers and successors think of him? In this turbulent and precedent-shattering political season, what can we learn from his actions and insights and from the careers of those who knew him, admired him, and fought among themselves to define his legacy?

November 2: Contested Symbol

The young United States was proud of its origins, conscious of its specialness, and anxious about its destiny. What guidance could it take from Washington? Early nineteenth-century Americans revered him as an icon, and used him as a moral example. As the struggle over slavery deepened, all sides sought to claim him. Perhaps he symbolized the Union; perhaps he and the other founders intended to make a nation forever half-slave and half-free. Abraham Lincoln, inspired by his youthful reading of Parson Weems, saw Washington as a hero of liberty. Robert E. Lee, husband of Mary Custis, chose his state over his country. Washington would not have been surprised by these disagreements; he knew that politics was full of choices and that the future would be up to us.

Cost: $50

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