There are about 200 presidential sites around the country — birthplaces, childhood homes, museums, and libraries — all charged with interpreting the lives of American presidents. Representatives from many of those locations came to Washington, D.C., Aug. 27-30 for the Presidential Sites Summit, hosted by the White House Historical Association.
More than 450 people attended the four-day event planned around participants’ interests in philanthropy, education, history, and other topics, according to Anita McBride, executive in residence at the AU School of Public Affairs and chair of the association board committee that organized the summit.
“We want to be part of what ignites the great interest in our history,” said McBride. “We are bringing the best and the brightest minds together to share what they know and what they can offer to these sites.”
SPA Adjunct Professor Richard Benedetto talked about his 40-year career as a White House correspondent at a panel about the presidents and the press through history. McBride helped open the 2018 Summit, was also on a panel that discussed the importance of carrying forward the legacies of great presidencies and the history of the White House.
In partnership with the White House Historical Association, SPA launched a new undergraduate course on White House history this semester that will feature Matthew Costello, historian with the association, and several guest speakers including McBride, who will talk about her area of expertise on first ladies. It is the only university that offers such a class.
“We are the one common thread on connectivity that most have,” said McBride of the White House Historical Association, which is dedicated to teaching Americans about presidential history. “Forty-four of 45 presidents have lived in the White House.”
The summit was held in downtown Washington, D.C., at the historic Willard Hotel, known as "the residence of presidents." The Summit also included a tree planting with first lady Melania Trump at the White House and sessions at the National Archives. It also included a visit to the National Cathedral and the Library of Congress. An evening at the Kennedy Center featured a panel of with descendants of former presidents and a discussion of presidents in the movies. The association hopes to be a convener for the descendants, added McBride, as well as a resource of historical information for the sites as they develop programming.
Watch McBride's interview with D.C.'s CBS WUSA9.