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March 26, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg Explores “The Idea of America”

A new book published by Colonial Williamsburg reaches well beyond the colonial and Revolutionary periods. “The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future” argues that American history has been shaped by a great debate that began with the founders and continues today. In fact, authors Richard Scotter, H. Michael Hartoonian and Bill White argue that it is the responsibility of all Americans as “revolutionary people” to continue that debate to preserve the republic.

“The premise of ‘The Idea of America’ is that Americans embrace values that are often in tension,” said Colin Campbell, Colonial Williamsburg’s president and CEO. “By examining how these value tensions played out throughout our history, this book demonstrates the continuing relevance of our founding ideals.”

Campbell added that, in its role as a center for history and citizenship, Colonial Williamsburg examines these tensions and continues the debate every day.

“The Idea of America” argues that Americans agree on a series of values and that these values – law and ethics, freedom and equality, unity and diversity, common wealth and private wealth — are often in tension with each other. It casts political debates – past and present – in the context of these value tensions.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Idea of America initiative includes several programs and products that explore the value tensions and continue the debate. Two interactive digital American history programs, one for high school students and one for the general public, explore the value tensions by examining case studies and offer a rich array of resources to make the history vibrant and relevant. A website, called Colonial Williamsburg Connect, provides historical background for current issues and allows the public to participate in the discussion via social media and online.

Hartoonian is a scholar in residence at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minn., Van Scotter is a writer based in Colorado Springs, Col., and White is Colonial Williamsburg’s Royce R. & Kathryn M. Baker vice president of productions, publications and learning ventures.

White said he hoped the book would point a way through America’s current political gridlock. “We believe a better understanding of the way these value tensions have played out in American history will lead to a more informed and civil discourse today.”

The book has received pre-publication praise from both scholars and businesspeople. Pulitzer prizewinning historian Gordon Wood called the book “a superb account of American life through the centuries” and said “readers will come away with a remarkably comprehensive understanding of America and all of its paradoxes.”

Norm Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and former Undersecretary of the Army, said, “Rarely, if ever, has anything been written that examines the fundamental dilemmas faced by our nation as starkly and readably as does ‘The Idea of America.’”

The book is available for $18.95 in paperback through Colonial Williamsburg stores and or by calling 800-761-8331. Beginning in April, it will be available for $9.95 as an e-book from Amazon.

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown