Thursday, November 1, 2012

George Washington: Icon or Politician? Historian Beeman Offers Answers on November 14



CHESTERTOWN, MD—George Washington is often viewed as a president far above the fray, more icon than politician. But in the final installment of the “Meet the Founders” series at Washington College, historian Richard Beeman will offer a surprising portrait of the man he describes as America’s “essential founding father,” a leader often buffeted by the storms of public opinion and political opposition in America’s rambunctious young democracy.

Beeman’s talk will take place on Wednesday, November 14, at 5:30 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue, and will be followed by a book signing. It is hosted by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, where Beeman is a senior fellow.

“George Washington was the indispensable man who, in both his behavior and his public persona, tried to represent not a single faction or point of view, but all Americans,” says Beeman. “But it was not always an easy job – especially during the turbulent final decade of his political career.”

The November 14 talk will focus on the challenges that Washington faced first as president of the Constitutional Convention and then as president of the United States. He spent two arduous terms struggling to find consensus among opposing philosophies and political interests.

Beeman, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, has been a member of that university’s faculty for 44 years and has served as Chair of the Department of History and as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was the winner of the 2010 George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the nation, for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House). The New York Times called the book a “scholarly yet lively account” of the “passion-filled crucible” that was the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

Beeman is the author of seven books on Revolutionary-era America, including The Penguin Guide to the American Constitution (Penguin, 2010) and Patrick Henry: A Biography (McGraw-Hill, 1974), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Other honors have included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Huntington Library. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in the United Kingdom and as Harmsworth Distinguished Professor of American History at Oxford University. He has written articles and book reviews for many publications and has appeared with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”

“Meet the Founders” serves as a sequel to “Inventing a Nation,” a series of four talks Beeman offered at Washington College in the fall of 2011.  “Dr. Beeman’s series last year was a smash hit, and we’ve been thrilled to have him return,” says Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. “There are few historians as gifted as he is at bringing to life the vivid personalities who played starring roles in the Revolutionary drama.”


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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.


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