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A Living Classroom in Virginia

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, one thing for which I am thankful is Thomas Jefferson's retreat nestled in the stunning landscape of Bedford County, VA. I first visited Poplar Forest five years ago and have returned often to witness the completion of a careful 35-year restoration of his elegant neoclassical masterpiece. Just outside of Lynchburg, Virginia off US 29, the historic site is just over 3 hours drive from Northern Virginia, two hours from Richmond, Virginia or Durham, NC, and an hour and a half from Charlottesville.

I am in my second term on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest and have joined my colleagues to spread the word and ask for financial support far beyond the confines of Bedford. We receive no ongoing federal or state support and have relied on the generosity of people like you to ensure this living classroom is available for public visitation. Our 24,000 visitors this year will represent all 50 states, all age groups, and a diverse set of education goals, from architecture to the biography of Mr. Jefferson and the names, the stories, and the lives of the enslaved people who worked there. We are truly a living classroom.

Some friends and I recently organized an evening of wine, food, and conversation in Raleigh, NC to introduce Poplar Forest to the City of Oaks. Sponsored by Poyner Spruill and the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, the evening featured a conversation between Thomas Jefferson (Bill Barker) and award-winning architectural historian Travis McDonald, moderated by David Crabtree, veteran TV journalist and current President and CEO of PBS North Carolina. Others featured in this short video are Jensie Teague, Chairman of the Board of Poplar Forest, Alyson Ramsey, President and CEO of Poplar Forest and our Director of Development Renee Flowers. Watch it here.

I recognize that the problems, needs, and opportunities that confront us every day are legion. My annual giving includes my church, my community, and international organizations. But it also includes institutions that teach American history in a truthful and tangible way. Only through our annual support will current and future generations be able to walk through this architectural gemstone, learn about the author of the Declaration of Independence, and confront the complicated and challenging story of our odyssey to a more perfect union. As we approach Giving Tuesday on November 28, I ask you to join me in making a gift to Poplar Forest. It will make a difference.


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