In celebration of the George Washington Presidential Library’s tenth anniversary, Mount Vernon is hosting its largest symposium yet, featuring an outstanding lineup of remarkable and thoughtful historians, authors, journalists, and leaders. While discussing our nation’s outstanding example of constitutional democracy, we will also look to the future challenges of safeguarding democratic government for the next generation. We anticipate lively and impactful conversations surrounding our nation’s most precious inheritance.
Conversations will examine the roles and responsibilities of various sectors in a functioning democracy, such as the military, media, and business communities. How has the United States Constitution evolved over more than two centuries as we strive towards a more perfect union? Is the United States living up to the Founders’ vision, including its first president, George Washington? Join us and hear as these engaging speakers provide wisdom and context regarding our great democratic experiment.
Please note that this lineup is subject to change at any time.
Rick Atkinson is a historian and the author of eight books. His most recent work is The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, the first volume in his Revolution Trilogy, which received the 2021 George Washington Prize. He has also written the Liberation Trilogy, about the role of the U.S. military during World War II in the Mediterranean and Western European theaters. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes in history and journalism.
John Avlon is a senior political analyst and anchor at CNN. He is an award-winning columnist and the author of Independent Nation, Wingnuts, Washington’s Farewell, and Lincoln and the Fight for Peace. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief and managing director of The Daily Beast and served as chief speechwriter for the Mayor of New York during the attacks of 9/11. He lives with his wife Margaret Hoover and their two children in New York.
H. W. Brands, Ph.D.
H. W. Brands is the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History. He writes on American history and politics, with books including The Last Campaign, Our First Civil War and The Zealot and the Emancipator. Several of his books have been bestsellers; two, Traitor to His Class and The First American, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. He lectures frequently on historical and current events and can be seen and heard on national and international television and radio. He publishes history-themed poetry on Twitter and “A User’s Guide to History” on Substack.
Richard Brookhiser is the author of numerous biographies, including Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington; Alexander Hamilton, American; and Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. He has hosted two films by Michael Pack for PBS. He received an honorary degree from George Washington College and a National Humanities Medal. He is a senior editor of National Review and a columnist for American History. (photo copyright Laura Heimert)
Robert Costa is the Chief Election & Campaign correspondent for CBS News, where he covers national politics and American democracy. Before joining CBS News, Costa and Bob Woodward co-wrote "Peril." Previously, Costa was also a national political reporter at The Washington Post and served as the moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" on PBS.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford
Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. served as the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer. In this role, he was the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council from 2015 to 2019. General Dunford was commissioned in 1977 and served as an infantry officer at all levels, to include commanding the 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Semper Fi Fund & America’s Fund which supports our wounded, ill, and injured active duty personnel and veterans from all services
Margaret Hoover is the host of PBS’s Firing Line with Margaret Hoover, a public affairs, multi-platform program that engages in long-form interviews and a rigorous exchange of ideas with the guiding principle that civil discourse is a civic responsibility. A CNN contributor, she has served in The White House under President George W. Bush, in the Department of Homeland Security, on Capitol Hill and on two presidential campaigns. A bestselling author, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, The Daily Beast, CNN.com and FoxNews.com. She lives in New York City with her husband John Avlon and their two children.
Michael J. Klarman, Ph.D.
Michael J. Klarman is the Charles Warren Professor of Legal History at Harvard Law School. His first book, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, received the 2005 Bancroft Prize in History. He published two books in 2007, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement and Unfinished Business: Racial Equality in American History, which is part of Oxford’s Inalienable Rights series. In 2016, Oxford University Press published his comprehensive history of the Founding, The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the US Constitution, which was a finalist for both the George Washington Book Prize and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. In 2020, he authored the Harvard Law Review Foreword on “The Degradation of American Democracy—and the Court.”
Brian Lamb is the Founding Director of the C-SPAN Networks. He has been an integral part of C-SPAN since he helped the cable industry launch it in 1979, serving as the nonprofit public service network’s CEO until March of 2012. Brian continues to contribute to C-SPAN as a hands-on strategic advisor and podcast host. Brian has been a regular on-air presence since the network’s earliest days, hosting television's first live viewer call in programs with members of Congress, journalists, and other newsmakers as guests. Over 15 years beginning in 1989, he interviewed 801 nonfiction authors for his weekly program, Booknotes.
Gen. Jim Mattis
Jim Mattis served over 40 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, plus duty in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and as Commander of U.S. Central Command comprised of 250,000 U.S. and allied troops in combat across the Middle East and South Asia. Retiring in 2013, he was a Davies Family Scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Subsequently he served as the 26th Secretary of Defense from January 2017 through December 2018.
Edna Greene Medford, Ph.D.
Edna Greene Medford is the former Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor of History Emerita at Howard University. She retired from the university in December 2021, after serving there for nearly 35 years. She is currently the president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting scholarship on President Lincoln’s life, times, and legacy. Her most recent book, Lincoln and Emancipation, is in its second printing.
Abby Phillip is CNN's senior political correspondent and anchor of Inside Politics Sunday. She joined the network in 2017 and served as White House Correspondent through 2019. In January 2020, she moderated CNN's Democratic Presidential Debate in Iowa. She also anchored special coverage of Election Night in America surrounding the 2020 election, which lasted several days until CNN was the first news outlet to project Joe Biden as the winner. Phillip was named to the Time 100 Next list in 2021 and she was the recipient of the National Urban League's Women of Power award.
Jeffrey Rosen is the President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit whose mission is to increase awareness and understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Rosen hosts the Center’s weekly We the People podcast, which brings together liberal and conservative voices for constitutional debate and teaches Constitution 101 classes for learners of all ages. Rosen is also professor at The George Washington University Law School and a contributing editor of The Atlantic. He is the author of six books including, most recently, Conversations with RBG: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law. His other books include biographies of William Howard Taft and Louis Brandeis.
David M. Rubenstein
David M. Rubenstein is Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of The Carlyle Group. He served as Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments before becoming the Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the Carter Administration. He is Chairman of the Boards of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Gallery of Art, the Economic Club of Washington, and the University of Chicago; a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation; a Trustee of the World Economic Forum; and a Director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Rubenstein is an original signer of The Giving Pledge; the host of The David Rubenstein Show and Bloomberg Wealth with David Rubenstein; and the author of The American Story, How to Lead, The American Experiment, and How to Invest.