Washington, D.C. is full of memorials to past Presidents and other movers and shakers in the United States, but one notable exception is our nation’s first Vice President and second President of the United States, John Adams. However, the Adams Memorial Foundation is aiming to change that with the construction of the Adams Memorial, which will honor not only Adams, but his family, many of whom were hugely important in American history.
The Adams Memorial Foundation, whose board includes David Topper of General Atlantic, descendent Benjamin C. Adams, and architectural partner Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, is overseeing the site construction and educational programs surrounding the memorial.
The Adamses provided exceptional leadership for several generations from the 1770s to the early 1900s—not to mention two Presidents (John Adams and John Quincy Adams). According to the legislation signed by President George W. Bush in 2001, “Both individually and collectively, the members of this illustrious family have enriched the Nation through their profound civic consciousness, abiding belief in the perfectibility of the Nation’s democracy, and commitment to service and sacrifice for the common good.”
The goal of the memorial, as well as the Adams Memorial Foundation, is not only to honor the Adams family and their accomplishments, but also to educate future leaders about public service, the history of democracy, and personal integrity. This includes bringing not just John Adams and John Quincy Adams to the forefront, but also the Adams women, who were equally important in exemplifying these traits (Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, fought for women’s rights and against slavery; Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, held weekly “drawing rooms” to encourage discussion between eminent diplomats and thinkers of the time).
In addition to overseeing the construction of the memorial, the Adams Memorial Foundation educates the public about the Adams family through collecting and exhibiting memorabilia.
So why haven’t the Adamses received more recognition before now? According to descendent Benjamin Adams, our second President was “difficult and cantankerous and not as charismatic as the Virginians. He was a one-term President, and many of his greatest contributions to the country came before his presidency.”
The only other Adams memorial currently in existence is the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts, which includes the 14-acre home where John Adams was born, as well as a neighboring farmhouse where John Quincy Adams was born. It was inaccessible until 1979 but now draws in about 225,000 visitors a year.