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The 2022 USC George Washington Leadership Lecture: George Washington and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom

Interior of historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island

The annual George Washington Leadership Lecture explores the Father of our Country's lifelong accomplishments, providing a better understanding of him as a person, as well as his remarkable leadership, professional achievements, and lasting legacy.

This year's event will feature the Mount Vernon premiere of the new film George Washington and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom.  It will also include a conversation with former Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf, who is a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and the author of the International Religious Freedom Act  (IRFA). 

A reception with complimentary beer, wine, and hors-d'œuvres will follow the lecture.


In PersonVirtual

This lecture series was established through a generous gift by Maribeth Borthwick '73, who also serves as the Vice Regent for California of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

This event is presented by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

Special Event Showing On




In-person Attendees:
Robert H. and Clarice Smith Theater, Ford Orientation Center

Virtual Attendees:
Tune in to our online broadcast

George Washington and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom

The U.S. Constitution, once ratified, did not ensure religious communities the right to practice, and many faithful citizens were fearful of persecution in the new United States. Some communities and their leaders wrote directly to President George Washington of this concern, and many of his replies appeared in newspapers across the nation. Washington often emphasized that religious liberty was not just a blessing, but a right. He went past mere religious tolerance and established religious freedom for citizens. He reassured people that the federal government would not prevent citizens from practicing the religion of their choice, or any at all.

George Washington and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom is a 15 minute film that covers a wide variety of topics. The video investigates religion in early America, then analyzes how George Washington successfully united a diverse group of men to defeat the British Empire. The film addresses many of the petitions religious groups sent to Washington, and finally ends with the passing of the Bill of Rights in 1791.


About the Speaker

Frank Wolf served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years, representing Virginia’s 10th district. He is the author of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which infused religious freedom into U.S. foreign policy. Wolf also authored the legislation to create a special envoy at the U.S. State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. He is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Wolf founded and served as co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan organization made up of nearly 200 Members of Congress who work together to raise awareness about international human rights issues. He has traveled to Ethiopia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and other countries in Africa to see firsthand the tremendous suffering due to corrupt governments, war, AIDS and famine. He led the first congressional delegation to Darfur. He also has worked to call attention to the human rights abuses and religious persecution in the People's Republic of China, Tibet, Romania, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and the Middle East.

In January 2015, following his tenure in Congress, Wolf was appointed the first-ever Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University, a post he held through 2016. That same month he joined the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a newly created religious freedom group, from which he retired in September 2018 as Distinguished Senior Fellow. The recent update (2016) of the International Religious Freedom legislation was named the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which was passed unanimously. 


This annual event is held in partnership with the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

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