"Popular symbolism has not been very generous toward Adams," says historian David McCullough of America's second president. Despite John Adams's role as one of the founding fathers and as commander-in-chief, McCullough notes, "there is no memorial, no statue...in his honor in our nation's capital, and to me that is absolutely inexcusable. It's long past time when we should recognize what he did, and who he was."
The absence of a John Adams memorial is the subject of our second episode for the new podcast Presidential. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer McCullough, Julie Miller of the Library of Congress, Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post and Kirk Savage of the University of Pittsburgh give us the backstory on why there's no monument—and how that omission shapes our sense of Adams's legacy.
The Presidential podcast, consisting of 44 episodes leading up to election day in November, examines the leadership and legacy of each of the American presidents. We explored the mythology of George Washington last week in our debut episode. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.
As listeners tune in each week, the podcast will reveal the ways in which our collective sense of what’s ’presidential’ has evolved over the years and how each president—effective or ineffective, esteemed or forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation’s highest office.
Want to learn more about who John Adams was? And the story behind his missing monument? Listen to the second episode of Presidential here:
A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:
- Subscribe for free on iTunes to automatically get new episodes when they launch
- Check out our Presidential page on the Washington Post site for new episodes and the full series archive
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This post has been updated. An earlier version included part of David McCullough's quote where he says there is no building for John Adams in Washington, but—though there is no monument or memorial—there is a building in the Library of Congress complex that bears his name.