About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 15, 2019

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 for this afternoon’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from Harlow Giles Unger about his new biography of Thomas Paine, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up soon in the McGowan Theater.

On Thursday, October 17, at 7 p.m., we will host a panel discussion connected to our special exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. The program is called “Women’s Suffrage and the Men Who Supported Them: The Suffragents and Their Role in the Struggle for the Vote.”

And on Wednesday, October 23, at 7 p.m., another panel will explore the role of traditional media in our 21st-century representative democracy, in a program titled “The Credibility of the Fourth Estate, Past and Present.” Our partner for this program is the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.

To keep informed about events throughout the year, 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 their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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Thomas Paine was a highly influential Founding Father, but you won’t find his portrait in the two murals in the Rotunda that celebrate the Declaration of Independence or Constitution. He didn’t serve in the Continental Congress with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, and he didn’t serve in the field with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. But his words were instrumental to the success of the Revolution. His famous pamphlet Common Sense predated the Declaration of Independence and laid out the argument for a break with Great Britain. The American Crisis pamphlets inspired and encouraged Americans to persevere against the British Army. Even today, the opening line is familiar to us: “These are the times that try men's souls.”

Though Thomas Paine’s image is not memorialized on our Rotunda walls, his words are his immortality.

Let’s now hear from Harlow Giles Unger to learn more about Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence.

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Harlow Giles Unger, a former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian.

He is the author of 27 books, including 10 biographies of the Founding Fathers—among them, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, Lafayette, and George Washington.

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

Mr. Unger spent many years as a foreign correspondent and American Affairs analyst for the New York Herald-Tribune Overseas News Service, The Times and The Sunday Times of London, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and he is a former associate professor of English and journalism.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Harlow Giles Unger.