Living History: Founding Fathers Debate At Local School

Students at a Cold Spring School learn the Founding Fathers were real people with strong beliefs.

"George Washington" at Cold Springs Middle School

Students gathered in the gym at Cold Springs Middle School Friday afternoon and listened to three men dressed in cloaks and knee britches speaking in the formal language of 18th century English.

It was a piece of living history, a reminder that our founding fathers were more than images on our currency and statuary, their thoughts more than quotes preserved on parchment or carved in marble.

Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton were living men whose principals and passions created a new form of government.

Some of those passions were faithfully created by three men who've made these portrayals their own passion for a number of years.

Dean Malissa is the official George Washington actor at Mount Vernon. Bill Barker served up an authentic sounding and appearing Thomas Jefferson and Ian Rose has been portraying Hamilton at a number of locations across the country for 11 years.

Each stayed in character even when being introduced to an instrument they could hardly have imagined--a microphone.

"I want to introduce you to this device," said Barker/Jefferson handing it to Rose/Hamilton.

"Ah yes," said Hamilton hearing his voice amplified, "this is strange and wondrous."

So was the discussion that followed.

Each in turn shared some of their personal history and the views that shaped the debates that resulted in our constitution.

Inevitably that led to verbal conflict. It was Hamilton's advocacy of a national bank that brought Jefferson to his feet, but the bigger issue, as it was in their time was Hamilton's federalism versus Jefferson's states rights.

Would it surprise either that there are still echoes of that debate in today's political discourse?

Not at all.

"Since I can read the works of Plutarch and the ancient Romans and see parallels to my day, I am not so surprised," responded Hamilton.

Sir. this has existed from time immemorial," said Jefferson in a courtly Virginia accent. "Mankind in his society has always argued what is best for the entire society rather than the few."

Washington as he did back then stood in the middle in the role of the calm, almost fatherly arbitrator.

"Suffice to say that division and faction and, dare I say, political party does not serve this country well," he said. "It serves only to separate people and raise the interests of party above social welfare and that does not bode well for the country."

The three were in Reno for an appearance at the University of Nevada through the Nevada George Washington Teaching Ambassador Program.

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