All posts tagged: Montpelier

Touro Synagogue

Let’s take a road trip to help understand the history behind religious liberty

In following coverage of the fight over the Supreme Court*, don’t worry if you have become confused about the concept of religious liberty. Those making the most noise either do not understand — or do not want to understand — this fundamental First Amendment right enshrined in the Constitution. People who should know better often sow confusion around the history and meaning of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Before we go all 2020 and take a virtual road trip to visit the places that help us see why the religious persecution faced by earlier generations led to this all-important amendment, let’s begin with a quick summary of why religious liberty is on the radar screen today. Recently two justices on the Supreme Court couldn’t pass up the chance to comment as they joined the court’s unanimous decision not to hear the appeal of Kim Davis, a Kentucky public official who refused to issue marriage licenses because of her personal religious views against same-sex unions. Justices …

Tensha-en garden

Gardens and gardeners

Linking the passions of America’s founding fathers with those of the ruling classes of Asia wasn’t on my agenda when I left for a two-week National Trust Tour of Japan and South Korea earlier this month. Sometimes serendipity just strikes. It was pure chance that I began reading Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation as I was leaving for my first trip to Asia. I was absorbed in her illuminating study of the passion for gardening, agriculture, and botany of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison—America’s best-known founding fathers—as I was entering a world where exquisite gardens were the obsession of Japan’s ruling class. The juxtaposition was fascinating and delightful. I became acquainted with Wulf through one of my favorite books, her 2015 work The Invention of Nature, with its description of how Alexander von Humboldt radically reshaped the way we thought of our relationship to the natural world. Founding Gardeners, written in 2011, isn’t as consistently strong, but is an enlightening read in its own right. …

Responding to Anger

Our recent national conversations too often seem soaked in anger. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t become angry.  It is a trait we all seem to share.  What differs is how we respond to anger:  our own and others. Over the winter holiday, our family visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Last Friday, our divisional management team toured the Mere Distinction of Colour exhibit at the National Trust Historic Site Montpelier.  Both cultural institutions showcased the many ways a people oppressed have responded to anger held against them by others as well as that held inside themselves. While at Montpelier, I picked up Michael Eric Dyson’s book Tears We Cannot Stop, a powerful call for recognition and redemption which brims with this Baptist preacher’s righteous anger. In her collection of essays No Time to Spare:  Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin has a two-part piece on anger. The first half looks at public anger, while the second focuses on our private anger.  I thought of the first in the …

NYC: Continuing a Spring Break Tradition

This is a tradition that begins with an oft-told story. When Claire was in fourth grade, she returned home from school one day to announce that the teacher had asked everyone to tell the class what their parents did for a living.  So I asked Claire, “What did you say?”  She replied, “I said my father signs papers and goes to meetings.” In her own straight-forward, fourth grade sense of the world, she was correct, and I told her so.  But I also said that meetings and papers were not why I worked.  And from that conversation, the annual Spring Break trip to get to know Daddy’s world was born. A few weeks later I spoke to my then-boss and said I’d like to take one child with me on a trip during Spring Break to see the work of the National Trust.  Dick blessed the idea, saying he had done something similar when he worked in the White House. My rules:  it had to be a legitimate work trip where they could see some …

Montpelier Restoration Celebrated Amid Praise for Madison

Chief Justice John Roberts (left) was the keynote speaker on Constitution Day at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, Virginia.  Under a beautiful late summer sky, several thousand people came together this morning on the front lawn to hear of Madison – the Father of the Constitution and one of the most under-appreciated Founding Fathers – and to celebrate the completion of the restoration of his home, Montpelier.  It was a wonderful day that, as National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe said, doesn’t get any better if you’re in this business. All the speakers rose to the occasion, but I found the remarks of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine especially thoughtful as he highlighted a Madison accomplishment, thought, and character trait.  The accomplishment was his role as Father of the Constitution.  To appreciate that accomplishment, Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph at St. Paul’s Cathedral was recalled, “If you seek his monument, look around you.” Governor Kaine then referenced Federalist #10, which he described as one of the most influential political thoughts in American history.  This emphasis on the pluralism …

Update on Farnsworth Flooding

As Barbara Campagna – the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s  Graham Gund Architect – reports on the PreservationNation blog, the flood waters have receded at the Farnsworth House.  Flood waters from the remnants of Hurricane Ike rose to about 18″ in the house before cresting.  Check out Barbara’s post to read about the way the staff protected the priceless furniture and panels in this modernist masterpiece. Tomorrow I’ll be at Montpelier in Orange, Virginia, to help celebrate the restoration of James Madison’s home by the Montpelier Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Check out the blog tomorrow evening for pictures and an update. More to come… DJB

Montpelier’s Restoration and the Importance of James Madison

Many of you know that the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Montpelier Foundation have undertaken a complete restoration of Montpelier, the historic home of James Madison in Orange, Virginia.  The home will be opened Wednesday, September 17th, after a five-year restoration.  Preservation magazine has a terrific story on this work in the September/October 2008 issue.  The Father of the Constitution’s house will be reopened – appropriately enough – on Constitution Day.  The opening also comes three days after the extension for yet another year of the national state of emergency first declared on September 14, 2001. Madison – one of our most underappreciated Founding Fathers – is still very relevant today.  To see Madison’s warnings about “experiments with our liberties” read his Memorial and Remonstrance.  More to come… DJB