Colin G. Campbell
Message from the President
A Williamsburg Forum
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is not only a national institution but an international institution, an organization of contemporary relevance both at home and abroad. In the Revolutionary City, and in our educational outreach initiatives, we teach the lessons of American independence, lessons that in 1776 were as pertinent to the world as to our new country, as applicable to the community of nations then as they are now. John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose philanthropy built Colonial Williamsburg, saw his achievement as “a beacon light of liberty.” In a time of emerging democracies and struggles for self-determination, it is as important as it ever was to keep that light brightly shining.
Through the decades, Colonial Williamsburg has welcomed to Duke of Gloucester Street princes and prime ministers, emperors and queens, presidents and potentates, who have come to glimpse the beginnings of America’s democratic experiment. Scholars and students have long convened here to study republican democracy and economic emancipation. Two years ago, we facilitated the Bamiyan Project, a meeting of twenty-five scholars and others from Iraq, Bosnia, Syria, and Afghanistan attempting to craft new democratic narratives for their countries. This year, in partnership with the Washington, DC–based, bipartisan, nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies, and in close cooperation with the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary, we are taking an evolutionary—not revolutionary—step by creating the Williamsburg/CSIS Forum. The forum anticipates sponsoring two international conferences each year.
As this issue of the journal went to press, we were making final preparations for the first of the forum’s sessions, to be held here in this colonial capital and in the nation’s over four days. Titled “The New Egypt: Challenges of a Post-Revolutionary Era,” the forum will present a series of public and private panels, comprising diplomats, business and military leaders, academics, economists, officials of the former government, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, journalists, and representatives of human rights organizations. It all begins April 22 with an address by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Colonial Williamsburg senior trustee Gordon Wood on connections between the American Revolution and the Arab Spring. The support of Anita A. and James D. Timmons, as well as other Colonial Williamsburg donors, makes the forum possible.
What have the transitions of modern Egypt to do with eighteenth-century Williamsburg, or even today’s America? A sampling of panel titles may answer the question: “Historical and Political Roots of Today’s Societies,” “Economic Outlook and Challenges,” “Military to Military Cooperation.” Participants will consider how the new Egypt will relate to the United States, to Europe, and to African and Mid-East neighbors. And they will ask how Egypt’s current experience is likely to influence regional developments in these tumultuous times.
A goal is to assess whether lessons learned from struggles to establish stable political cultures and institutions, such as the American Revolution and its aftermath, are useful in addressing contemporary political and economic global challenges. An objective is to help countries and regions advance their own visions of political and economic development, and the principles of citizenship and self-government. Participants who share and explore the latest thinking on these issues will see, I believe, that the future may learn from the past.
Colin G. Campbell
President and CEO