ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

In Memoriam: Jim Rees

September 10, 2014 by Anne D. Neal

A gap of mind and heart. That is what Jim Rees called the tragic disconnect between “George Washington and the American people.” Citing ACTA’s Losing America’s Memory survey of college graduates, Jim, for years, eloquently raised concerns about America’s growing historical amnesia, its lack of respect for our Founders, and why it was critical to restore America’s memory.

For decades, Jim worked relentlessly to bridge that gap of mind and heart. And Mount Vernon, where I am honored to serve as a board member, was the lucky beneficiary. Mount Vernon was not much more than a famous home when Jim’s transformation of the place began. But it became, under his leadership, a place that was far more. Yes, it was a great historic home—one that, to this day, greets more visitors than any other historic site. But it also became a place of education, a  place to showcase our first and greatest president—not just a “dead white male” as many would have had it—but, instead, a living, breathing, remarkable entrepreneur, statesman, conservationist, and leader.

Jim understood that familiarity breeds respect and that the quality of American leadership depended upon knowledge of—and respect for—Washington and his fellow Founders. But he knew that American schools, both at the K-12 and college level, were failing in that task. So, it’s not surprising that his last big push as CEO was for the creation of a library that would study George Washington and offer our country and the world a venue to teach about Washington’s leadership and character.

September 9 is a sad day.

But for all of us who knew and worked with Jim, it is a day which allows us to renew our commitment to Jim’s cause—ACTA’s cause and the Mount Vernon cause: namely, to bridge the gap of mind and heart that separates the American people from George Washington and to restore in all of us a respect for the vision, courage, leadership, and character of the Founders of this great Nation. 

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