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President’s Day, an unrealized dream for Founding Fathers

by Hannah Lynn Robinson


If the Founding Fathers were alive today, President’s Day would probably be their favorite day of the year. Rebecca Brannon, professor of history at James Madison University, explains why the fathers of our nation were so fixated on their legacies and how we can still see traces of their influence on our lives today.

“The Founding Fathers were far more self-conscious about their legacies than they wanted to let on.  In their later years, they all worked hard on multiple ways to expand beyond their extensive and notable records of public service in order to assure themselves that their post-death legacies would represent them the way they wanted to be remembered,” says Brannon.

Brannon, faculty expert at JMU, is available to discuss aspects of President’s Day and the Founding Fathers.

“They founded and financed universities to connect with future generations they would never know. They planned permanent monuments to themselves, such as Thomas Jefferson’s elaborate and expensive buildings for the University of Virginia and George Washington’s beloved brand-new federal city. They sat for endless paintings and statutes. Poor Thomas Jefferson almost suffocated to death under a poorly applied life mask for one such bust.”

Rebecca Brannon teaches courses in United States history that focus on the colonial, revolutionary, and early national period. Her work has brought her to audiences through NPR shows such as With Good Reason and Backstory, TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" and Bill O'Reilly's "Legends and Lies: The American Patriots." 

“In many ways the Founding Fathers were like older people today. They wanted to make sure they left a legacy that meant their lives had made the world a better place.”

Media contact: Hannah Robinson,, 520-222-2808

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Published: Monday, February 17, 2020

Last Updated: Monday, February 17, 2020

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