The White House Historical Association held a four-day summit in Dallas March 15-18, attended by presidential sites representatives. The sites included birthplaces, childhood homes, and libraries across the country. The second Presidential Sites Summit was held at the historic Adolphus hotel in Dallas. Its theme: “The White House Belongs to the American People.”
White House Historical Association Board Member Anita McBride and Association President Stewart McLaurin hosted the summit. McLaurin has greatly expanded the Association’s educational programming and award-winning publications that teach the story of White House history. McBride’s White House service spans two decades and three presidential administrations, and also leads the First Ladies Initiative at American University.
Presidential Sites Evening Events
Evening programs included an event at Old Parkland featuring a discussion with former chiefs of staff to presidents and first ladies. A reception and program at the George W. Bush Presidential Center featured remarks by former First Lady Laura Bush and a discussion between former Bush administration alumni about the lighter side of working at the White House, An event at AT&T Stadium, “A Presidential Tribute with David M. Rubenstein,” featured a reception, dinner, and program.
General sessions included Sparking Civic Engagement Through History Education, Making History Accessible Through Technology, First Ladies Impact and Influence, Towards Inclusive History: Slavery and Race, Presidential Mourning and Tragedy: Interpreting and Remembering, Donor Cultivation in a Post Pandemic Environment, and Maximizing Site Potential. Some 270 attendees were registered to attend the summit.
Luncheon Speaker Lynn Forney Young
I was especially interested in hearing Lynn Forney Young speak about our country’s 250th anniversary. She is one of 16 civilians serving on the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission. The America 250 Commission is charged with planning the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. Luncheon speaker Mrs. Forney Young is a Texan, and serves as secretary of the Commission and America 250 Foundation, and as Chair of the Governance Committee. She is also Honorary President General of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, after serving as their President General from 2013-2016.
The 16 private citizen Commissioners were appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the U. S. House and Senate, she said, with eight members of Congress appointed in the same manner. The Commission is working with its partner, the America250 Foundation, to further develop plans, and more will be announced this summer.
“We already unveiled our annual November Salute initiative, which collected more than 3,500 photos and stories submitted by active-duty service members, reservists, guard members and veterans from across the country,” she said. “The pictures were used to create a beautiful mosaic depicting WWI hero Sgt. Henry Johnson that became a 14-foot art installation at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. The display is being extended at the museum in honor of those who served our country.”
“Under a partnership with the NFL, we presented the America250 Awards during the Thanksgiving Day football game. The multiyear awards program was created to recognize Americans who exemplify the intangible qualities of the American spirit, and spotlight those who exhibit heroism, unity, justice, tranquility, valor, and equality, and advance and uphold the freedoms first forged in the founding promise of America. We are also uplifting communities in online conversations, exploring timely and relevant topics important to Americans,” Forney Young said.
“The Commission and America250 is partnering with federal agencies, states, institutions, communities and Native Tribes across the country, and around the world, to commemorate America’s 250th. We are going to inspire states, cities and communities from coast-to-coast to plan programming and events in conjunction with the semiquincentennial. In some states, that’s happening now and will intensify as we draw closer to the anniversary,” she added.
‘The official national commemoration will culminate in Philadelphia and other leading cities, including Boston, Charleston and New York. The Commission is also working to engage the entire nation during the lead up and on this historic milestone, including as many Americans as possible. The theme of the Commission is to Educate, Engage and Unite. At this time, we have a number of Advisory Councils,” she said.
“Serving on the Advisory Councils are people across the country who are experts in their fields, discussing the best ways to educate, engage and unite our citizens. We are committed to uplifting, inclusive and uniting events to engage as many of the 350,000,000 Americans as possible. Further, each state is encouraged to establish a commission in order to begin planning this milestone anniversary. The Texas 250 Commission will be meeting for the first time later this month,” Forney Young said.
Presidential Sites Summit
A national conference held every two years and hosted at a site with significant connections to the American presidency. The conference attracts attendees representing institutions from all regions of the country and from across the spectrum of the historical profession.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come.