November 19, 2002
Colonial American specialist and George Washington expert Dr. Clair Keller held an historic press conference for Oklahoma Baptist University's Henry Lecture Thursday on the university's campus.
Instead of lecturing on the nation's first president, Keller portrayed Washington in early American garb and fielded questions from the audience.
Keller's Washington was portrayed as if the tall Virginian had just returned home to Mount Vernon in 1784 after refusing an offer to serve a third presidential term. He effectively painted a loving portrait of an aging, battle-weary soldier who was at the same time proud of his service to the country.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you will forgive me for putting on my spectacles for I have not only grown gray and weary but almost blind in the service of my country," Keller said, paraphrasing a speech of Washington's that quelled a would-be revolt within the Continental Army.
As Washington, Keller spoke on the history, culture, personality and passion of the first president while "in character" but slipped off the pair of thin pair of reading glasses to elaborate on points that George Washington would not have been able to comment.
"I believe it is important to remember the reasons we fought for our independence," Keller said, still in character. "If we forget that, we could easily lose it."
"I have concern for the continuance of the Revolution," he continued. "I see an opportunity for us to prosper being squandered. There will be anarchy if we cannot unite. If we fall to anarchy, we will also fall prey to other nations."
Some of his answers hit on present world situations and sounded as if they could come from the mouth of another George--- --current president George W. Bush.
"Although we are a beacon of light and freedom in the darkness of the world, other countries do not see us as such and do not love us," he said. "They would seek to do us harm."
Keller, a recently retired professor of history and education at Iowa State University, is an expert on the life of George Washington. He has received wide acclaim for his historic press conferences given as George Washington to more than 25,000 students and adults in Iowa over a thirty-year time span.
Keller received bachelor, master and doctoral degrees from the University of Washington.
The Thomas Harlan Henry Lecture was established at OBU in honor of the late Thomas Harlan Henry, a longtime Shawnee educator. Funded by members of the Henry family, including governor-elect Brad Henry, the lectureship brings speakers on the arts, politics and Oklahoma history to the OBU campus in addition to providing several political science internships.