Presidents, Politics, and History: Upcoming Talks in NYC

By Alison Durkee

The country will turn their attention to some of history’s greatest Commanders-in-Chief this February, as the U.S. celebrates Presidents Day. Celebrate the holiday–or just learn more about our country’s history and political system–with these upcoming talks and events.

Those in the mood for a patriotic celebration this weekend can celebrate our first president’s birthday at Washington’s Birthday Ball, a celebration for all ages at the Mount Vernon Hotel Garden & Museum on February 18. The event will feature costumed dancers performing and teaching routines from Washington’s day, along with a toast to the Founding Father and historic refreshments. The Fraunces Tavern Museum will also mark Presidents Day Weekend with a special Open House that runs from February 17-19, which will include special museum tours and $1 admission. Those wanting to get a more comedic look at our Commanders-in-Chief, meanwhile, can head to Littlefield on February 21 for Every President Ever: Together Again, a comedy show featuring 45 comedians each taking on one of the country’s past presidents.

This February will also offer chances to learn about some of the Founding Fathers who didn’t ascend to the country’s highest office. Hamilton fans can “not throw away their shot” and get a different perspective on the founding father at A Jewish Founding Father? Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life, a talk by Dr. Andrew Porwancher that argues the case for Hamilton’s Jewish ancestry and discusses how he fought for Jewish rights on February 18. One of Hamilton’s friends, Gouverneur Morris, will be the focus of a lecture on February 20 that delves into the founding father’s role at the Constitutional Convention. Before the Constitution, though, there was the Declaration of Independence, and a February 22 Fraunces Tavern event will put Richard Henry Lee, the Virginia congressman who became the first founding father to declare independence from Britain, in the spotlight. On Presidents Day, New Yorkers can even walk in the founding fathers’ footsteps themselves on Big Onion Tours’ Revolutionary New York tour, which will trace the remnants of the city’s colonial-era history.

New Yorkers will also be able to discover other aspects of American history through the lens of the city in February and March. Learn more about World War II history through just 20 objects at a talk on March 5, which will use Brooklyn as a historical tapestry of the war’s wider history. The Municipal Art Society will also offer several upcoming tours that give a glimpse at the city’s–and country’s–history. A February 18 tour will give a look at the 19th century black community in modern-day Chelsea, while a March 10 tour will offer an exploration of New York during the Gilded Age.

This winter and spring will also offer opportunities to learn more about the American political system that’s endured since Washington’s tenure. Spend your Presidents Day Weekend going back to the Bill of Rights with an in-depth look at the First Amendment on February 18, or head to a discussion of populism and democracy on February 17. Those still trying to understand the recent changes to the U.S. tax code and its implications can learn more about the new legislation at a talk with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and other economics experts on February 28. Over in Brooklyn, American democracy will come under scrutiny at BAM’s seminar series on the nature and execution of democracy. The Questioning Democracy series will include three upcoming sessions: Radical Prescription for Democracy (March 15), Democracy By Whom? For Whom? (April 19), and Democracy Reinvented? (May 17).

Thought Gallery has New York’s state of mind. Sign up for our weekly Curriculum and get the best of smart NYC delivered right to your inbox.