About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 16, 2018

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube.

Before we hear from Giles Unger about his latest book, Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up soon here in the McGowan Theater.

Tomorrow at noon, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis will be here to tell us about his newest book, American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us. Ellis gives us a deeply insightful examination of the relevance of the views of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams to some of the most divisive issues in America today. A book signing follows the program.

And on Thursday at 7 p.m., we honor the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass with a panel discussion on “Frederick Douglass, 19th-Century Civil Rights Activist: His Legacy Today.” Douglass himself (portrayed by Phil Darius Wallace) will also appear, and book signings will follow the discussion.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out its website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about the Foundation and join online.

Every year, more than a million visitors walk into the Rotunda to view the Charters of Freedom—the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. As they enter and look up, they see two large murals—one commemorating the signers of the Declaration, and the other, of the Constitution. While visitors may be able to recognize some of the central figures on sight, most will need to consult the identification key to find out who the rest are.

The most thorough reader of that key, I regret to tell Mr. Unger, will not find the name of Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Rush had been one of the most respected men of the Revolutionary era—an eminent doctor, a social reformer, and a valued correspondent of the great names of his time. Today’s guest author turns our attention to this forgotten Founding Father, who rightfully deserves the spotlight.

Among the many sources cited in the book’s bibliography is the immensely valuable website, Founders Online. Through Founders Online, which is hosted by the National Archives through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, we can meet the nation’s founders through their own words. Among the thousands of documents we can find are more than 400 letters between Benjamin Rush and Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and others.

Thanks to Mr. Unger, we can rediscover the words and works of Dr. Benjamin Rush and his place in the story of this nation’s founding.

Historian HARLOW GILES UNGER is author of more than 25 books, including more than a dozen biographies of our Founding Fathers, including Washington, Hancock, Lafayette, and Patrick Henry. A veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, Mr. Unger is a former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Cited by Florence King of the National Review as “America’s most readable historian,” Mr. Unger has appeared on the History Channel and C-SPAN’s Book TV.  He has spoken many times at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, at Yorktown, and historic sites in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Mr. Unger is a graduate of Yale University and was an editor at the New York Herald Tribune Overseas News Service and a syndicated columnist before becoming an author.

Please welcome Harlow Giles Unger.