Philip B. Bigler
A James Madison University alumnus, Bigler returned to campus in 2001 to lead the James Madison Center in its mission to honor the legacy of the nation's fourth president and the father of the U.S. Constitution. A 20-plus year classroom teacher before becoming director of the center, Bigler was the National Teacher of the Year in 1998.
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of James Madison's inauguration as president of the United States—on March 4, 1809—the center is publishing "Liberty & Learning: The Essential James Madison," a book written by Bigler. He hopes the volume, written to appeal to young adults, will resonate with JMU students in particular and contribute to their understanding of the man JMU honors and respects.
What do you hope "Liberty & Learning" will contribute to the understanding of James Madison?
Why does it seem Madison is the forgotten founder?
"Liberty & Learning" is not a biography of Madison. How do you characterize or describe the book?
"Liberty & Learning" includes a series of appendixes—a Madison genealogy, facts about James and Dolley Madison and her son from her first marriage, Payne Todd, and quotes by Madison—to help dispel myths about Madison.
What is the essential fact about Madison we should all know?
Two hundred years to the month after James Madison's inauguration to the presidency of the United States, the university that bears his namesake will celebrate his life and legacy during Madison Week, March 16-20.
The celebration will be highlighted by the release of a new book on Madison's legacy by Phil Bigler ('74, '76M), director of the James Madison Center at JMU, a visit by the C-SPAN Civics Bus, a keynote address by Madison scholar and Cornell University President Emeritus Hunter Rawlings and the eighth annual Madison Cup debate contest.
Two hundred years after his inauguration, at a time when the role of the federal government is in seemingly constant debate, the presidency and life of the man known as "The Father of the Constitution" take on added significance to the nation.
"What makes him so important to us is the fact that Madison understood human nature," said Bigler. "He realized that people are going to behave in their own self interest and as a result created a government that was designed to allow people to pursue their happiness but at the same time to provide stability and a reasonable set of laws."
Bigler's book, "Liberty & Learning: The Essential James Madison," will have its official release Monday after an 11 a.m. wreath laying at the James Madison statue on Bluestone Drive. Proceeds from book sales will support the Donald Robertson Scholarship, offered annually by the James Madison Center in honor of James Madison's first teacher.
Rawlings will deliver the keynote address on Madison's legacy at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Wilson Hall Auditorium. A native of Madison's hometown of Orange, Va., Rawlings is a recognized scholar of classic and American history and sits on the board of Madison's Montpelier. Read his bio
The Madison Cup Debates will hold preliminary rounds throughout the day Wednesday, culminating in a final round open to the public at 5 p.m. in the Wilson Hall Auditorium. Teams from colleges throughout the country will debate the role of coal-based technologies in meeting the country's future energy needs.
Bigler, who taught history for more than 20 years in secondary schools and was named the 1998 National Teacher of the Year before returning to JMU in 2001, stressed the importance of remembering the contributions of a president who is often overshadowed by some of his fellow founding fathers.
"I hope that our students will come away with the appreciation of what Madison means to this university and what he means to the country," Bigler said. "One of the things that I think is so important is that Madison believed in the freedom of conscience, the freedom of thought."
For more information about the celebration, visit www.jmu.edu/birthday.
Calendar of Events
Monday, March 16
* 11 a.m., Wreath laying at James Madison statue (Bluestone Drive), 1787 Society inductions and birthday cake. Parking: Warsaw Ave. Parking Deck.
* "Liberty & Learning: The Essential James Madison" release: The book chronicling Madison's presidency was written by Phil Bigler ('74, '76M), director of the James Madison Center. A limited number of books will be distributed free at the wreath laying ceremony. Proceeds from the book will support the Donald Robertson Scholarship, offered annually by the James Madison Center in honor of James Madison's first teacher.
Tuesday, March 17
Wednesday, March 18
* 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Madison Cup Debate preliminary rounds.
* 11:15 a.m., JMU Scholarship and Endowment Luncheon. Ticketed event. Shuttle service will be provided from Convo A Lot.
* 2:30 p.m., James Madison Day speaker Hunter Rawlings. Wilson Hall Auditorium. Parking: Warsaw Ave. Parking Deck.
* 4 p.m., JMU physics Professor Bill Ingham talks about "Another Side of Little Jemmy: Science, Technology and Exploration in James Madison's World." Room 159, ISAT/CS Building. Parking: D2 and C10 Lots off Carrier Drive.
* 5 p.m., Madison Cup Debate final. Eighth annual James Madison Day Commemorative Debate and Citizenship Forum. JMU debaters and teams from the nation's top universities will debate the role of coal-based technologies to meet the United States' future energy needs. Wilson Hall Auditorium. Parking: Warsaw Ave. Parking Deck.
* 10 p.m.-1 a.m., Tune in to WSVA 550 AM to hear radio personality Jim Bohannon interview special guests from James Madison Week including Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner ('03, '05M), Phil Bigler of the James Madison Center and JMU physics Professor Bill Ingham.
Friday, March 20
* 1:30 p.m., State Teachers of Promise Conference featuring Kathy Buckley, "America's First Hearing Impaired Comedienne." Memorial Hall Auditorium. Learn more about the State Teachers of Promise Conference at www.jmu.edu/milken/. Parking: Memorial Hall Parking Lots.