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January 11, 2008

Western hemisphere's oldest body to conduct 24th commemorative joint session at Colonial Capitol

The General Assembly of Virginia, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest elected deliberative body, will meet in special commemorative session at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

The joint session of the Senate and House of Delegates is the 24th in a series of ceremonial assemblies that date from the 1934 dedication of the reconstructed Capitol on its colonial-era foundation. The General Assembly traces its origins to Virginia’s first elected legislature – the House of Burgesses, which met for the first time in a simple wooden church at Jamestown, the first capital of the Virginia colony, in 1619.

Following the tradition begun 70 years ago, the General Assembly -- with Gov. Tim Kaine, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Justices of the Virginia Supreme Court and members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation -- returns to the Hall of the House of Burgesses in the Colonial Capitol to renew its inspiration and to strengthen its resolve to perpetuate the fundamental principles of free governments. During that first session at the Capitol dedication ceremonies on Feb. 24, 1934, the senators and delegates passed legislation enabling the General Assembly to hold future sessions at the Capitol “at times that might seem proper.”

A highlight of each commemorative session is an address on current issues facing Virginia, the United States or the world. This year, the General Assembly will hear Michael Beschloss, best-selling author and presidential historian. His latest book is “Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989.” Past commemorative session speakers have included President Gerald R. Ford, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lewis Powell, U.S. Senator John Warner and Colonial Williamsburg benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr., who inspired the General Assembly at that first session in 1934 with these words:

“What a temptation to sit in silence and let the past speak to us of those whose voices once resounded in these halls, and whose farseeing wisdom, high courage, and unselfish devotion to the common good will ever be an inspiration to noble living. To their memory the rebirth of this building is forever dedicated.”

Due to space limitations inside the capitol, attendance at the joint commemorative legislative session is by invitation only and available to the media.

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 tradespeople 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 or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281