Vol V, No.2 │ Fall Semester 2018
A Republic...If You Can Keep It
Expanding the Byrd Center's Educational Outreach
Friends of the Byrd Center Lead Successful Fundraiser
The Byrd Call │ Fall Semester 2018
Table of Contents
A Republic ... If You Can Keep It (Director's Message)
Expanding the Byrd Center's Educational Outreach
A Sincere Thank You and Farewell
Student Interns Complete Projects in the Byrd Center Archives
Friends of the Byrd Center Lead Successful Fundraiser for Student Interns
2018 Fall Film Series
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I grew up in the Philadelphia area, surrounded by the history and lore of the American Revolution and the founding of our nation. Philadelphia served as the epicenter for the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, when I was three, and I like to think that the many day trips I took as a kid with my family to places like Valley Forge, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’s house, and Washington’s Crossing, among others, laid part of the foundation for my becoming a historian years later. It was at these places and in the books I read with my dad, himself a history buff, that America’s founders came to life. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison each loomed large for me then, but none so much as Benjamin Franklin, whose wit and wisdom my dad loved and tried to impart to me.
By Jay Wyatt
A Republic...If You Can Keep It
I’ve been thinking a lot about Ben Franklin lately, as we approach the 2018 midterm elections, not so much in a biographical context or in a nostalgic remembering of the many insightful adages he printed in Poor Richard’s Almanac over the years though. Rather, I’ve been considering the quip he reportedly made while leaving Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. As the story goes, Franklin was asked by a Mrs. Powell, “Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin replied “A republic, madam -- if you can keep it.”
The story of Franklin’s comments comes from the diary of Dr. James McHenry of Maryland, a delegate at the convention who happened to overhear the question and Franklin’s retort, and it continues to have relevance more than 240 years later because it gets at simple truths. Franklin, the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention at 81 years old, understood that our republican form of
government is delicate, that its fate rests in the people’s hands, and that its success and durability is by no means assured. It was Franklin’s view, as well as that of many other delegates, that the Constitution they had just created was a foundation and that the nation that would be built on top of it, like just about any man-made structure, would require consistent if not continual upkeep.
Arming ourselves with ample knowledge and information and using that knowledge to make informed decisions at the ballot box are essential components to conducting the maintenance necessary for making the grand experiment that is the American republic work. This goes for all levels of our civic life. And sure, Americans are certainly not lacking for opinions on social, cultural, economic, or political matters. John McCain, the late Republican senator from Arizona, was right when he pointed out in his recent farewell letter to Americans, “We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals” that “argue and compete and sometimes vilify each other in raucous public debates.” McCain was also right when he said “we have much more in common with one another than in disagreement.”
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A leaf from James McHenry's diary with the account of Benjamin Franklin's conversation with Elizabeth Powell in 1787. (Library of Congress)
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Since our doors opened in 2002, the Byrd Center has proudly served as place where people can gather to learn about and discuss pressing local, state, and national issues and how our government is supposed to function. The robust array of public programs we offer embody the Center’s mission to promote a better understanding of the United States Congress, the Constitution, and representative democracy. We’ve sponsored book talks by nationally-recognized scholars, held film screenings, partnered with Shepherd University faculty and local organizations on teach-ins and conferences, welcomed politicians and dignitaries, and established a signature Constitution Day event, the Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the U.S. Constitution, with the generous support of the Moses family. This year, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (retired) delivered the Moses Memorial Lecture on Constitution Day.
It was also at the Byrd Center that the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC), a national consortium of organizations and scholars was formed, and as a result of the steady processing of our archival collections, we’ve been able to support numerous scholarly projects detailing the history of Congress.
But for all that, there is much more to do, as Franklin and the founders well understood. The work of fostering a more informed electorate doesn’t end, and that is in part why we’ve taken the Byrd Center show on the road in recent years. We criss-crossed West Virginia and made it into Washington D.C. with our traveling exhibit “Robert C. Byrd: Senator, Statesman, West Virginian” in 2016 and 2017, and this summer, we drew near 100 educators
at our teacher institutes on teaching about Congress and the Constitution in Charleston, Morgantown, Lewisburg, and at the Byrd Center.
The Byrd Center’s growth over the past sixteen years came under the leadership and vision of Ray Smock, our founding director, who retired this summer. In recognition of his many years of service, Ray was named Director Emeritus of the Byrd Center by our board of directors in June. Ray was a consultant on the project that became the Byrd Center prior to being named director and in that capacity developed a keen sense for what Senator Byrd wanted the Center to become. That original vision continues to undergird all of the work that we do. To be sure, Ray has left large shoes to fill. I consider it a privilege to carry on our work as the Center’s new director. As we begin the new academic year, you can expect more talks, more screenings, more exhibits, and more creative and collaborative initiatives designed to promote a more informed and engaged populace.
James Madison, Ben Franklin’s fellow delegate at the Constitutional Convention, famously claimed “knowledge will forever govern ignorance.” Each of us at the Byrd Center take this as as a truth. And though I can’t honestly describe many of our events as “raucous,” I am proud that each one almost always elicits civil and in-depth discussions that foster new knowledge. Time and again presenters and panelists have expressed to me their appreciation for the high-level of engagement that you, the members of our audiences, bring to each event. It is gratifying to see so many of you carrying those post-event conversations on as you leave the Center. I thank you for your ongoing support and for helping us fulfill our mission, and I look forward to seeing you all in the months ahead.
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The Teacher Institute was established in 2016 to provide resources and training to educators to assist in teaching students about the U.S. Constitution, Congress, and representative democracy. Our first two institutes were held in the summers of 2016 and 2017 at the Byrd Center in Shepherdstown. Now in its third year, the institute has expanded to four workshops held in Charleston, Lewisburg, Morgantown, and Shepherdstown. Thanks to a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, this year's Teacher Institute welcomed nearly one hundred educators from around the state.
Each of our institute workshops includes multiple sessions where facilitators introduce and demonstrate a teaching module or lesson plan. We are fortunate to have built a strong partnership with Dr. Charles Flanagan of the National Archives and Records Administration's Center for Legislative Archives who facilitates several of our institute sessions. Dr. Flanagan, himself a teacher with many years of experience in the classroom, has spearheaded the development of innovative
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Expanding the Byrd Center's Educational Outreach Programs
group activities and games which help students comprehend our nation's constitution and the government it informs. Examples of these modules include "Mapping the Constitution" where students use a grid to chart which branch of the government has the most powers delegated to it in the articles. Another session uses a board game to help students understand and navigate a bill through the legislative process to become law.
Inspired by these and other examples, the Byrd Center has also developed its own teaching tools built on the resources of our archives. To instruct students on how government responds to natural disaster emergencies, we developed a module which uses records from our Robert C. Byrd and Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers Collections that demonstrate how federal assistance was secured and distributed after the 1985 floods in West Virginia. We were able to build this module with the help of materials from the Governor Arch Moore, Jr. Papers housed at the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University. The Byrd Center has also contributed to a lesson plan built off the digital exhibit The Great Society Congress, developed by the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress and featuring materials from the Robert C. Byrd and Harley O. Staggers, Sr. Congressional Papers Collections.
Teachers participate in the legislative process (left) and West Virginia Flood Recovery (right) sessions at Charleston.
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The Byrd Center is excited to continue expanding our teacher institute and student leadership programs in the coming academic year. Whether reaching students directly or through their educators, we are committed to increasing public understanding of the Constitution through educational outreach.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, the Byrd Center initiated a partnership with Berkeley County Public Schools (West Virginia) to bring students from their Leadership Program to the center for a full-day seminar of workshops exploring the Constitution, Congress, and deliberative discourse. We welcomed over eighty students in this program from four high schools to the Byrd Center in October 2017 where they participated in a "Mapping the Constitution" exercise, our West Virginia 1985 Flood Recovery lesson, took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Byrd Center archives, and a engaged in a guided deliberate conversation on how to overcome hyper-partisanship in our current political climate. Using these skills, the students met throughout the ensuing months to propose their own plans for determining the best start-time for public schools. In the spring, they returned to the Byrd Center to present and debate their various proposals.
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Students from the Berkeley County Public Schools Leadership Program at the Byrd Center in October 2017.
As I retire as Director of the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education after sixteen years, I want to thank all the people who have made these years so satisfying, both professionally and personally. I cannot begin to name everyone. But it includes four presidents of Shepherd University, many fine administrators, and the outstanding faculty of this gem of a liberal arts university. And it includes the students of Shepherd too, those who have been in the classes I have taught over the years, but especially to those who have served as interns at the Byrd Center. I am proud of all of them. Many of our interns have said that their experiences working with the Byrd Center, helping us process Senator Byrd’s vast archive, learning how an archive really works, and being given important tasks to do, was one of their most rewarding experiences during their college years.
My thanks extend to the members of the board of the Congressional Education Foundation, which oversees the work of the Byrd Center, for their many years of guidance and support. The Congressional Education Foundation preceded the creation of the Byrd Center. I worked as a consultant for this Foundation to help create the Byrd Center several years before I was hired to be the director. Helping to create the vision for the Center, working directly on this with Senator Byrd and his staff, and helping to oversee the design and construction of the Byrd Center and the expansion of the main campus library is one of the great highlights of my career, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
A Sincere Thank You and Farewell
On June 30, 2018, our director of 16 years, Ray Smock, retired from the Byrd Center. Less than a month later at our Evening with Congressional Historians fundraiser, which featured Ray as a panelist, Joe Stewart and Erik Fatemi (chair and vice-chair of our board of directors, respectively) presented Ray with a certificate recording the conferrence of the title "Director Emeritus" to him in recognition of his exemplary leadership in the development of the Byrd Center. We share now a short message written by Ray originally published on our website in June.
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The newest group that deserves special thanks is the Friends of the Byrd Center, a group of mostly local citizens in the Shepherdstown area, who have helped us with their donations and with their steadfast support of our public programs. Many in this group are also active in Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning program. The Byrd Center partners with the Lifelong Learning Program and offers our classrooms and auditorium for their programs.
I will not leave the Byrd Center behind, even as I step down from the director’s job. I will continue to serve as a member of the Congressional Education Foundation board of directors. The board voted to name me “Director Emeritus,” and I appreciate this honor. I will always find ways to help the Byrd Center because I believe in its mission and I believe it is an important center for public outreach at Shepherd University.
Above: Ray chats with Senator Byrd at the Byrd Center on September 16, 2005.
Below: One of Ray's many appearance on C-SPAN discussing the history of Congress.
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The mission of the Byrd Center is to advance representative democracy by promoting a better understanding of the United States Congress and the Constitution through programs and research that engage citizens. Nothing could be more important to the life of this Republic. We carry on a vision planted with the Founders of this nation that citizens must be informed in order for democracy to work. It was James Madison who said “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Citizens need to know what government is doing and what it should be doing under the Constitution. One center like ours cannot do this alone, of course. It takes many institutions both public and private, and it takes a free press, and good public education to make this happen. Here at the Byrd Center we helped form a national consortium of centers like ours to pool our collective approaches to public understanding of Congress and the Constitution. It is called the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, with fifty members, mostly on university campuses, across the nation.
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Government is not functioning well right now. Very few citizens who follow our government closely like what they see. This goes beyond political party labels. The problem has been growing for a number of years. I met in Washington, DC recently with an organization called No Labels, which is working to end the ideological gridlock and hyper-partisan politics that plagues our politics right now. I met with members of the House of Representatives who are Republicans and Democrats working for ways to learn how to cooperate together and to not be afraid any longer of the word “Compromise,” which is the essential ingredient in the art of politics. I found this an encouraging development, but it still has a long way to go before Congress can function to do the work of the people, the work of the nation, and not the work of hardline party politics driven by big money.
The Byrd Center changed its name two years ago from the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies to the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. Our mission remained the same but we wanted our name to reflect our focus: Congressional History. We need to know the historical context and we need to learn from past history about how we can recover from major crises in the functioning of government.
The word “Education” in our new name means public education of all citizens, from grade schools, high schools, right through to senior citizenship. But we give education a special emphasis on teacher training so that future generations can use knowledge, not ignorance, to become better citizens and better future governors of the nation. We too easily forget that in a republic like ours, “We the People,” are the ultimate power. We do not work for government; government works for us—all of us. Public service is a noble calling. Politics is a vital process to sustaining the nation and civilization itself. Right now we seem to have forgotten both.
The Byrd Center needs your help. Its funds used to come from government grants, but we can no longer rely on such support entirely. We continue to seek grants for our educational programs, and we have been fortunate to receive a few for our teacher training program. But we suffer from the general downturn of support for educational institutions and we need substantial new resources in the years ahead if our work is to survive and flourish. With your help we can carry on this important work. Join the Friends of the Byrd Center; help us build a donor base among those who understand the importance of public education about what good government and good citizenship means to the life of the nation.
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Below: (L to R) Erik Fatemi, Jay Wyatt, and Joe Stewart present Ray with his Director Emeritus resolution on July 23, 2018.
I am happy to pass the torch of leadership of this Center to my friend and colleague Dr. Jay Wyatt, who becomes the new director on July 1, 2018. Jay has been at the Byrd Center as Director of Programs and Research for five years. I have every confidence that he will take the Center to new levels of achievement. He will be ably assisted by Jody Brumage, the Byrd Center’s Archivist and Office Manager, who is much admired on this campus for his professionalism, his organizational skills, and his ability to be helpful to everyone. And to our current and future Byrd Center student interns, please know how much we value your contributions to the work of the Center.
Above: Ray and his wife, Phyllis, at his retirement reception.
(L to R) Jacob Vanorsdale, Jody Brumage, Ray Smock, Jay Wyatt, and Delaney Conner.
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Student Interns Complete Projects in the Byrd Center Archives
Each year, the Byrd Center welcomes students from Shepherd University who complete internships assisting our staff in a variety of tasks and projects. We were fortunate this year to host two exceptional students who conducted their internships over the summer break. Delaney Conner and Jacob Vanorsdale are both students in Shepherd University’s Historic Preservation/ Public History program. Delaney and Jacob each brought their own experiences and curiosities to the center and throughout the summer assisted in several important projects while also branching out to explore their own interests. We are proud of their accomplishments .
Upon the commencement of their internships at the center, Delaney and Jacob conducted near twenty audit edits of back-logged oral history interviews. Audit editing involves reviewing the accuracy of the transcript of an interview by listening to and comparing it with the audio recording. Thanks to
Our student interns have traditionally assisted the archivist in processing and providing reference services to our researchers. This summer, with the help of our interns, we completed several important projects in the archives. Working together, Jacob and Delaney inventoried, arranged, and described a large collection of political campaign ephemera which the center acquired last year from Scot Faulkner, the first Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives. This collection joins the existing Faulkner Papers which the Byrd Center acquired in 2011. The interns examined thousands of buttons, badges, pins, bumper stickers, and posters originating from national, state, and local campaigns, including presidential campaigns from Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s through the early-2000s. In addition to completing an inventory and researching the background of the lesser-known campaigns, Jacob and Delaney performed minor conservation work to clean and re-house the items in the collection.
Jacob continued working on tasks in the archives, including digitizing several additional volumes in Senator Robert C. Byrd’s extensive clippings scrapbook collection. Owing to this progress on this multi-year project, the center has now digitized 72 volumes, ranging in date from 1946 through 1977. Jacob also completed the processing of the Jim Watkins Papers, a staff collection relating to our Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers Collection, which the Byrd Center opened for research in the spring of 2017.
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Jacob and Delaney’s work, the center is now in a position to reach out to our interviewees and secure their approval of the transcripts, after which they can be made available to the public through the Byrd Center’s website. We look forward to sharing these new interviews with you as they become available.
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Senator Byrd dedicates the National Conservation Training Center in 1997.
After working on the Faulkner Campaign Ephemera project, Delaney began an extensive research project exploring the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center, located near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Senator Byrd spearheaded the appropriation of over $138 million to construct the campus and preserve over 500 acres of land along the Potomac River. The product of Delaney’s research was a podcast entitled “Appalachian Aspects: Episode 1” which can be accessed on the Byrd Center’s website.
Both Delaney and Jacob were interviewed by Shepherdstown’s Chronicle newspaper during our July 23rd program “An Evening with Congressional Historians” which raised funds for next year’s student intern program. This event, sponsored by the Byrd Center in collaboration with our Friends of the Byrd Center and Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning Program raised more than $8,000.00 to support our next generation of student interns at the Byrd Center. We thank Jacob and Delaney for their hard work and wish them the best in their senior year and they embark on their capstone research projects and more!
Established in 2017 in honor of the centennial anniversary of Senator Byrd’s birthday, the Friends of the Byrd Center is a diverse group of people from both the Shepherd University campus and community who pay an annual fee ($100.00) to support the continued operation of the center. Now in its second year, the Friends of the Byrd Center has continued to grow and expand in its role assisting with programing and fundraising for the Center’s ongoing projects.
In July 2018, the Friends of the Byrd Center sponsored “An Evening with Congressional Historians,” a panel discussion moderated by C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb and featuring the three former historians of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate: Raymond Smock, Donald Ritchie, and Richard Baker. The insightful panel was attended by over 100 people who crowded the Byrd Center’s Auditorium. Later that evening, a beautiful dinner catered by Carol Saunders was enjoyed by the fundraiser’s supporters. The event raised over $8,000.00 which will provide the stipend for two student interns at the Byrd Center in 2019. The panel discussion was covered by C-SPAN and can be viewed on their online archive.
Members and guests of the Friends of the Byrd Center at our July 23rd fundraiser.
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Friends of the Byrd Center Lead Successful Fundraiser for Student Interns
Members of the Friends of the Byrd Center have unique opportunities to connect with the Byrd Center’s programs and the many scholars and speakers who visit campus each year. This month, Friends were invited to a post-lecture dinner, hosted by Shepherd University’s President Mary J.C. Hendrix, in honor of our Constitution Day speaker, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (Ret.).
If you are interested in learning more about the Friends of the Byrd Center and becoming a supporter, visit the Byrd Center’s website and head over to the “Support Us” tab. You can donate online or contact our office (304-876-5648) to give by check. Membership in the Friends is only $100.00 a year and offers exclusive access to the center’s programs as well as the ability to contribute to the future of the Byrd Center and its role in the Shepherd University campus community.
We look forward to welcoming all of our Friends at our Holiday Reception on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7:00 pm. We will gather to celebrate a prosperous year and enjoy great refreshments. Friends will also have an opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Byrd Center's archives and see original documents and photographs from the collections.
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Friends attend the President's Reception on Constitution Day in honor of Senator Tom Harkin.
Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 6:00 pm
In a region ravaged by opioid abuse, four young men in a farming-based rehabilitation facility forge a bond as they try to reinvent their lives after years of addiction. This special event in the fall film series is being held in the Storer Ballroom of the Student Center (across the street from the Byrd Center) and will include a panel and group discussion after the screening.
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2018 Fall Film Series
The Byrd Center is proud to once again partner with Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning Program to sponsor the Fall Semester Film Screening and Discussion Series. Our events scheduled for this fall will explore timely issues such as America’s healthcare system, the effort to help communities recover from the opioid epidemic, the consequences of public protest, and the role of hate in domestic terrorism. These films and discussions are offered to the campus community free of cost, but in order to guarantee that you will have a seat, we invite you to RSVP to Jody Brumage at the Byrd Center (304-876-5648 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 6:30 pm
More than twenty-five years after the verdict of the Rodney King trial sparked several days of protests, violence, and looting in Los Angeles, LA92 immerses viewers in that tumultuous period through stunning and rarely seen archival footage.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - 6:30 pm
On April 19, 1995, former soldier Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder truck containing a five-ton fertilzer bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 injured in the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. This documentary reveals the events and socio-political circumstances that radicalized McVeigh and through this cautionary tale issues an extremely timely warning.