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October 16, 2007

CW joins MacNeil/Lehrer Productions' "By the People" project to create "Dialogues in Democracy"

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the “By the People” project team from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions have joined to host a national conversation called “Dialogues in Democracy: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” featuring a national PBS broadcast anchored by Jim Lehrer as part of his continuing “By The People” series.

The project seeks to examine how the democratic values of the founding generation connect with the nation we have become in the 21st century and to answer the question: Can a nation that will grow to 400 million people over the next 35 years achieve a shared commitment to citizen responsibilities and rights?

Colonial Williamsburg and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions will draw attention to this fundamental question through a combination of linked local and national events: representative civic dialogues in 11 communities that will culminate in November in Colonial Williamsburg’s House of Burgesses, site of America’s first comprehensive “Declaration of Rights.” In Williamsburg, a convocation of social, intellectual, policy and cultural leaders will frame “Dialogues in Democracy.”

“This is an ambitious and important undertaking,” said Colin Campbell, president and chairman of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Colonial Williamsburg is committed to finding ways to make the connection between today’s American citizens and those who began this experiment in democracy more than 230 years ago. Through our Revolutionary City and other programs and our extensive education outreach, we continue to focus on the meaning of our responsibilities as citizens. The collaboration with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions for this project directly supports our mission that the future may learn from the past.”

This month, Dialogues in Democracy 2007 will hold town meeting events in 11 cities, most with 100 randomly selected citizen delegates. These community engagements will focus on issues that resonate within specific localities – issues that include health care, education, immigration, privacy and the role of government. Questions will be framed to form a clear connection between the concerns of the founders and the present and future challenges facing communities and our nation. Community outreach and related civic discourse will surround each community’s deliberations. These events also will involve local elected officials and opinion leaders.

The cities where town meetings will be conducted are Albuquerque, N.M., Baton Rouge, La., Denver, Col., Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb., New Haven, Conn., Cleveland and Bowling Green, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Rochester, N.Y., and Seattle, Wash.

In November, approximately 45 citizens recruited from across the nation will attend the convocation in the Colonial Williamsburg House of Burgesses. Some will be nationally recognized leaders; collectively they will bring diverse educational, demographic, geographic and religious perspectives to the dialogue. In a place where America’s independence and democratic foundations were debated and forged, these individuals will seek to engage their fellow citizens in the ownership of our shared civic responsibilities.

“Our role is to host the final convocation here in Colonial Williamsburg’s House of Burgesses, and to assist with the Web initiatives and the historical context for the program,” said Richard McCluney, the Royce R. and Kathryn M. Baker vice president of productions, publications and learning ventures for Colonial Williamsburg. “It’s a perfect fit with the education for citizenship initiatives we are pursuing. These include a new Web site called iCitizenForum.com, where young Americans, new Americans and non-English-speaking Americans may participate in our citizen ‘Dialogues in Democracy.’ With our electronic field trips, podcasts, teacher institute, Web sites and innovative curricular materials for primary and secondary schools, we hope to help new generations of citizens sustain the American experiment in self-government.”

The “Dialogues in Democracy” television program will broadcast on PBS in January 2008 – just in time for the first primary of the 2008 presidential election season. For more information, visit pbs.org/newshour/btp.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY (447-8679) or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at www.history.org.

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280



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