Restored! Montpelier's redo brings thousands
"The pink stucco is gone, and James Madison is back," exclaimed Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, not long before 2,600 children from area schools held aloft colored placards to create a giant American flag for the official grand reopening of the fourth president's home September 17.
As a red, white, and blue helicopter (and a Hook-affiliated airplane) circled over the grounds of the Orange County mansion, there were sunny skies and smiles for this culmination of a $24 million restoration.
"I must say," Moe continued, as he looked out on the Blue Ridge Mountains from under the home's ample portico, "in my line of work, it doesn't get any better than this."
Other high-profile speakers heaped praise on James Madison for leading the authorship of the American Constitution and then, after initially saying no, endorsing its first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights.
"In the words of today, folks," said Governor Tim Kaine, "he was a flip-flopper. And thank God for that."
The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, called Madison "under-appreciated but absolutely indispensible."
And the day's master of ceremonies, PBS newscaster Jim Lehrer, remarked that Madison's genius was a Constitution that has stood the test of time. "He invented a government that could be run by idiots," said Lehrer. "No offense intended."