At an event on Friday that was co-sponsored by AEI’s Program on American Citizenship and the National Civic Art Society, a distinguished panel discussed the important role of public memorials in civic life, using the recent controversies over the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Memorial and the proposed Eisenhower Memorial to guide the conversation.
After an introduction by AEI’s Gary Schmitt, Michael J. Lewis of Williams College emphasized that monuments exist to proclaim one urgent gesture. In essence, they should convey overarching truths instead of getting caught up in the minutiae of specific ones. Attempting to reverse this rule, Lewis noted, has been one of the great failings of the proposed Eisenhower Memorial.
Roger Scruton of AEI agreed that modern architects often fall into these traps and warned that recent monuments overwhelmingly suffer either from kitsch, bombast or false sentiment. Proper monuments, on the other hand, compel people to recognize and endorse their nation’s highest ideals and to translate those aspirations into a concrete urban fabric.
Bruce Cole of the Hudson Institute commented that memorials in the American democratic context raise unique questions about how to properly recognize greatness. He expressed concern that Americans have increasingly become a “nation of amnesiacs” that is in danger of forgetting the great historical acts and people it celebrates.
Diana Schaub of Loyola University Maryland pointed to the Lincoln Memorial as an example of how the best monuments still educate visitors and inspire them to live up to the ideals that the memorials represent. The panel concluded that similar aspirations should be taken into account when planning and constructing modern memorials.
Over the past year, the recently dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Memorial and the planned Eisenhower Memorial have renewed controversy about the meaning and purpose of public memorials. What do America’s memorials and monuments tell us about our nation and our identity as citizens? How should we memorialize past events and individuals? In this event, co-sponsored by the Program on American Citizenship and the National Civic Art Society, a distinguished panel will address these questions and comment on the MLK and Eisenhower memorials.
Registration and Breakfast
Gary J. Schmitt, AEI
Bruce Cole, Hudson Institute
Michael J. Lewis, Williams College
Diana Schaub, Loyola University Maryland
Roger Scruton, AEI
Eric Wind, National Civic Art Society
Event Contact Information
For more information, please contact Barrett Bowdre at [email protected], 202.862.5946.
Media Contact Information
For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.
Bruce Cole is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the former president and CEO of the American Revolution Center (ARC), the first national institution devoted to exploring the history and continuing impact of the American Revolution. Before joining ARC, he served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Under his leadership, the NEH launched key initiatives, including We the People, a program designed to encourage the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture, and the Picturing America project, which uses great American art to teach our nation’s history and culture in 80,000 schools and public libraries nationwide. Cole came to the NEH from Indiana University, where he was distinguished professor of art history and professor of comparative literature. In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. The author of 14 books and numerous articles, Cole served on the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the Woodrow Wilson Center board and currently sits on the boards of American Heritage, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Villa Firenze Foundation. He is also a member of the board of advisers for the National Civic Art Society.
Michael J. Lewis is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College, where he has taught American art and architecture since 1993. He has also taught at Bryn Mawr College, McGill University in Canada and the University of Natal in South Africa. Lewis is a critic of architecture and writes for a wide variety of publications. He is the author of, among other books, “Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind,” “The Gothic Revival,” “American Art and Architecture” and the prize-winning “August Reichensperger: The Politics of the German Gothic Revival.” His research interests include architectural theory, utopian and communal societies and the nature of creativity. In 2008 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the completion of “City of Refuge: the Other Utopia,” a study of millennial town planning.
Diana Schaub is professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland and co-editor of “What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song.” A member of the Hoover Institution’s Virtues of a Free Society Task Force, she is the 2011–2012 Garwood Teaching Fellow at Princeton University, where she recently taught a course on American statesmanship. She is the author of “Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu’s ‘Persian Letters,’” a number of book chapters and articles on political philosophy and the thought of the Founders and Abraham Lincoln. Schaub is likewise the author of several literary and political essays appearing in the Claremont Review of Books, the New Criterion, the Public Interest, Commentary, First Things, the American Interest and City Journal, among others. She is a contributing editor to the New Atlantis and a member of the publication committee of National Affairs. In 2001, she received the Richard M. Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters.
Gary Schmitt is the director of the Program on American Citizenship and co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, both at AEI. He previously served in senior positions in the U.S. Senate and the Reagan White House and as president of the New Citizenship Project, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to exploring the impact of public policy on American civic life. He is the author or editor of several volumes on issues pertaining to national security and has also written and lectured on American history, constitutional law, political philosophy and American political thought. His two most recent books, for which he was an editor and contributing author, are “The Rise of China: Essays on the Future Competition” and “Safety, Liberty and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism.”
Roger Scruton is a visiting scholar at AEI. A writer, philosopher and public commentator, he has written widely on political and cultural issues, with particular emphasis on aesthetics, music and architecture. The author of more than 30 books, his most recent ones include, “The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope,” “Beauty” and “Culture Counts: Faith and Healing in a World Besieged.” His forthcoming book, “How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism,” will be released in June of this year. Scruton is also a founding editor of The Salisbury Review and the founder of Claridge Press, now part of Continuum International Publishing Group. His work is regularly featured in The American Spectator, City Journal, The Wall Street Journal, among many other journals. He and Bruce Cole serve on the board of advisers for the National Civic Art Society.
Eric Wind is the secretary and chairman emeritus of the National Civic Art Society. He is the senior analyst at the Endeavor Group, a consulting and law firm in Washington, D.C. In 2007, he was a Berkley Center Undergraduate Fellow at Georgetown University, where he researched the advocacy of religious groups. The following year he served as a research assistant to Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center, assisting him with his book, “World of Faith and Freedom.” Wind is particularly interested in public monuments and their importance to civic culture and remembrance, and his work on the subject has appeared in First Things and The American Thinker.