Bringing History to Life
When I was in elementary school, a portrait of George Washington was as much a part of any classroom as a chalkboard or American flag. Sadly, reverence for the Father of Our Country has faded since my school days.
My hope is that the new People’s President Gallery at Mount Vernon will help preserve and restore our respect and gratitude for Washington and others who won the freedoms we enjoy today. Like those classroom portraits of Washington, the new exhibits at Mount Vernon will be visible reminders to children and their children’s children of this great leader who played an essential role in winning our freedom and creating the United States of America.
Visitors will see beyond the statues and engraving on the dollar bill. These exhibits bring Washington to life—the young, brave horseman helping tame the wilderness, the courageous leader fighting against formidable odds in battle, and the wise first president who helped invent the United States of America. As he has been described by one of his biographers, George Washington was “The Indispensable Man.” Without him, the new American nation very likely would not have won its independence in a war against one of the most powerful military forces on earth. No other American had the exact qualities needed to fill the office of President of the United States and form a united nation from independent states.
The Father of Our Country deserves a rebirth of respect from all Americans. Young and old need to meet him again at his home in Mount Vernon to experience the flesh and blood man behind the marble mask. The freedoms that Washington and his troops won have been a blessing to me. I cannot imagine my life without the freedoms that have enabled me to pursue and achieve my dreams. That is why my wife, Helen, and I felt privileged and honored to support through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation this exhibit that will help restore George Washington to his rightful pedestal in the eyes of all Americans.
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Justin Torres did a fine job telling the story of the “Amazing New Mount Vernon.” All who were involved know the remarkable efforts of Fred Smith and Jim Rees to create the new Mount Vernon. There is, however, an omission which I should like to bring to your attention. While the “Ladies” of Mount Vernon are given the credit they richly deserve, the regent herself, Gay Hart Gaines, may have been the indispensable person, with Jim Rees, in organizing the fundraising, execution and presentation of the new Mount Vernon to an admiring public. Congratulations to all who played their part, and especially to Gay Hart Gaines.
—Lewis E. Lehrman
Gilder Lehrman Institute of
New York, New York