by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Garland Tucker writes for the Martin Center about academic skirmishes involving American history.
The violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 have fueled a deep-seated leftist desire to re-write American history. Demands to topple statues, remove portraits, rename buildings, and repudiate founders—all in an effort to cleanse any objectionable reality from our history—have reached a fever pitch.
The parallel to George Orwell’s 1984 is unmistakable. Orwell wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past.” College campuses, including Yale, Brown, Harvard, Williams, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke, etc., have become battlefields.
Consider recent events at my college alma mater, Washington & Lee University. Founded in 1749, W&L has a history that is longer than most American colleges and as rich as any. …
… Shortly after Appomattox, in an inspired action, the trustees approached General Robert E. Lee with an offer of the presidency of Washington College. Lee had already received several far more lucrative and prestigious offers from corporate interests seeking to capitalize on his status as a hero, but he recoiled at lending his good name to any endeavor for which he did not feel qualified. Instead, he intended to use his final years to heal the sectional wounds inflicted by the war. Lee’s final five years rescued the college and did much to bring healing to the nation. After Lee’s death in 1870, the college became Washington & Lee University and has become one of America’s great liberal arts colleges.
For almost 150 years, the legacy of general Lee appeared well established; however, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville incident, the Board recently announced several troubling changes.