Colonial Williamsburg is looking to capitalize on the 2016 election with a presidential campaign of its own.
None other than Gen. George Washington himself launched Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s latest marketing initiative with great pomp and flair, announcing his civic values campaign from the stage of the Kimball Theatre on Monday morning.
Referring to him as a “Historic Area fixture,” Colonial Williamsburg has featured Ron Carnegie’s portrayal of the first president of the United States in programs for more than 10 years.
Carnegie, as Washington, took the stage Monday to cheers from a packed house at the Kimball. Two young musicians from the Fife and Drum Corps preceded him, and more than a dozen historical interpreters and young children pulled from the audience filled out the stage behind him.
The heart of Washington’s presidential campaign is summed up in its slogan, “It Starts Here.”
“Today, here in Williamsburg, I am announcing that I shall embark on my final campaign to reintroduce myself to my beloved country, to remind our fellow citizens of our sacred duty to choose our own leaders, and to offer every man, woman and child of every race and creed the certain knowledge that all of the arguments and debates before you today began long ago. They started here,” Washington said.
Washington emphasized that topics such as immigration, a modern-day source of contention that would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers as they understood the issue, have their roots in the work that was done in Williamsburg more than 200 years ago.
“The government we created does not belong to us. We created it so that it might be altered and adjusted to the needs of future generations,” Washington said.
In addition to emphasizing the ties of the present-day election to the foundation laid by Washington and other Founding Fathers, Washington’s campaign will also focus heavily on promoting civic responsibility.
“As a citizen of a democratic nation, you do not have the luxury to remain a spectator,” Washington said.
His visits to important primary states will promote the importance of political participation, the role of intelligent debate and the necessity of a well-informed citizenry to the ideals of democracy.
Washington’s first stop on the campaign trail is Iowa, where he will be the first non-candidate to deliver the opening Soapbox speech at the Iowa State Fair. From there, he will move on to New Hampshire and other key states into 2016.
Whether it is a presidential campaign, marketing campaign or – as is the case here – both, no successful campaign in 2016 would be complete without an active social media presence and extensive exposure via broadcast advertisements.
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Washington’s campaign will have both, reinforcing the messages he delivers on the trail and promoting Colonial Williamsburg as a destination for patriotic Americans to come learn about the roots of their democracy.
Colonial Williamsburg executives are hopeful the launch of this initiative will drive tourists to the area by demonstrating the relevance of the country’s past to its present.
The national scope of Washington’s tour is calculated to reach people beyond Colonial Williamsburg’s regular audience who are passionate about the ideals of the nation but not necessarily aware of what the Historic Triangle area has to offer.
As for how much Washington will weigh in on the particulars of the 2016 presidential race while on the campaign trail, the crowd at the Kimball was well-assured the first president is aware of the weight his opinions might carry and will not be playing favorites.
“It is not my intention to endorse any candidate,” Washington said. “It falls to the people of our country to choose, and the candidate I endorse is the candidate that the people endorse.”