David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American® Foundation is dedicated to restoring enthusiasm in American history for kids, and adults.
Founded on President’s Day 2014, the mission of the organization is to provide insight and increase interest in the people and events that helped establish the United States. And the first phase of the project will highlight the work and lives of the founding presidents, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln.
“You have to know where you came from to know where you are going,” insists Smith, a Washington, DC-based author and publisher who recently penned “American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States.”
Smith has described the project as one where more people can dive into the genealogy of the country.
“Educators know history is critical to students learning how to become better citizens and understanding how the country’s political and cultural systems work,” says Smith.
“Students need to not only recognize leaders like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, but also understand why they were important to the development of the country.”
Smith knows of what he speaks, for he comes from a long line of grateful Americans.
- His grandfather, DC construction mogul Charles E. Smith (1901-1995), was a Jewish philanthropist and businessman who founded Charles E. Smith Cos. in 1946—one of Washington’s largest builders, developers, and property managers. Known for his wisdom, energy, and patient determination, Smith came to America from Russia as a boy unable to speak English, and he surmounted serious fiscal setbacks during the Great Depression and afterward before going on to build dozens of office buildings and thousands of apartment units in the Washington area. The Charles E. Smith Center, at George Washington University, was named for Charles when he was a university trustee.
- Smith’s father is Robert H. Smith (1928-2009). He took over the family business in 1967 with his brother-in-law, Robert P. Kogod. Together, they grew the company into one of the largest commercial and residential landlords in the Washington, DC, area, managing 24 million square feet of office space and more than 30,000 residential units. The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, was named in his honor in 1998.
- Smith’s mother is Clarice Smith, for whom the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland was named in 2001. An internationally acclaimed artist who has had numerous shows from New York City to Paris, she has collaborated with her son on several books, including “American Hero.”
“I actually borrowed the title for the Grateful American™ Series from my father, who always referred to himself that way,” says Smith about the impact his family has had on him. “The community and this country have been good to my family, and he never forgot it. I haven’t either. This is my way of giving back.”
In fact, studies show too many Americans—kids especially—aren’t knowledgeable about the country’s history.
Smith points to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress report, which showed that just 13 percent of high school seniors tested showed solid academic performance in American history. The two other grade levels tested didn’t perform much better, with just 22 percent of 4th grade students and 18 percent of 8th graders scoring proficient or better.
“The test quizzed students on such topics as colonization, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the contemporary United States, and one question asked 4th graders why it was important for the United States to build canals in the 1800s,” Smith explains. “But an amazing number of students weren’t able to answer those questions.
At the time, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said ‘the results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.’ And I couldn’t agree more.”
Smith is frustrated that adults don’t seem to fare much better when tested on their knowledge of American history.
“In 2009, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute asked 2,500 randomly selected Americans 33 questions on civic literacy, and 71 percent of them received an average score of 49 percent—which is an F,” Smith shares, noting that the quiz revealed that more than twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on the TV program, “American Idol,” than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“It’s hard to believe, but unfortunately it’s true,” says Smith, who is hopeful to change the way Americans view history with the Grateful American™ Series. “The Founding Fathers and the iconic Americans who have made us into the country we are today should be as present in our lives as the Hollywood celebrities who dance across our TV screens. With the help of the leaders of our national presidential homes, educators, and history experts, my goal is to bring the exciting stories of their lives to the forefront.”
About David Bruce Smith
David Bruce Smith has a bachelor’s degree in American Literature from George Washington University, and a master’s in Journalism from New York University. During the past 20 years he has been a real estate executive and the editor-in-chief/publisher of Crystal City Magazine.
He is the author of 12 books: “In Many Arenas,” “13 Young Men,” “Tennessee,” “Three Miles From Providence,” “Conversations with Papa Charlie,” “Afternoon Tea with Mom,” “Letters to My Children,” “Building the Community,” “Continuum,” “Building My Life,” “American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States” and his most recent, “Abigail & John.”
His company David Bruce Smith Publications, specializes in creating, designing, and composing limited-edition books on a variety of subjects: authors, historic figures, artists, and leaders. Several are about the amazing life-story of real estate developer and philanthropist Charles E. Smith. David Bruce Smith Publications is committed to educating young children through books, literature, and historic sites.
In 2015, Smith co-founded the Grateful American Book Prize with Dr. Bruce Cole, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The annual award honors a 7th to 9th grade level work culled from fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction submissions.
The Prize comes with a $13,000 payment in commemoration of the 13 original colonies, and a silver medallion designed by Smith’s mother, the renowned artist, Clarice Smith. Two “Honorable Mention” works are also acknowledged.
In 2019 Smith inaugurated the Grateful American Book Series, which concentrates on historical couples that had equal partnerships. The first, Abigail & John (Adams) was published in the fall of 2019. The follow-up, Dolley & James (Madison) will be released in 2022.