In the late 1940’s only a handful of public policy institutions existed, and structured conferences were a new and evolving form of exchange. Eisenhower envisioned the American Assembly as an experiment in democratic citizenship — one in which bright minds would come together in an objective and impartial process to address key challenges facing democracy, and “illuminate issues of national policy.” As president of Columbia University, Eisenhower argued that educational institutions “must assume immediate leadership in studying, explaining, and perpetuating our American system.”
Eisenhower is widely regarded as a preeminent military strategist and political leader. Yet the passionate advocacy that led him to establish the American Assembly in 1950 reveals his broader commitment to strengthening democracy — and the important role he believed educational institutions played in cultivating “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.”
Though often celebrated as a defender of core American values on the battlefield, Eisenhower also expressed what he believed were the internal threats to American democracy.
In his famous “Farewell Address” as he left the White House, he emphasized a theme he had long considered essential for a democratic society, the need for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.”
These deeply held beliefs, and Eisenhower’s mandate to protect them, were central to the creation of The American Assembly, which continues to identify cross-cutting problems, focus attention from both sides of the aisle, and make a better nation for all Americans.
On May 21, 1951, Columbia University received Arden House as the “home of the American Assembly” and the first American Assembly began deliberations. Arden House was given to Columbia by W. Averell Harriman and his brother E. Roland Harriman. This established Arden House as America’s first Conference Center.
For over 60 years, The American Assembly has held over 100 convenings of historical significance on a variety of topics, fostering non-partisan, cross sector public-policy discussions.
Legacy cities are places that have changed dramatically since the mid-20th century. Mostly older, formerly-industrial urban areas, legacy cities have experienced significant population loss. The profound social and economic disruption in legacy cities is the result of fundamental shifts of the global economy in recent decades, and as importantly, policy decisions made at the local, state, and federal level.
Despite very real challenges, legacy cities also have real assets—from strong cultural fabric and anchor institutions to abundant historic architecture and available land—that serve local communities and strengthen them as centers of their metropolitan regions. Many are now becoming hubs of innovation, as legacy city leaders find new and creative solutions to the challenges at hand.
The Legacy Cities Partnership aims to strengthen the skills of professionals working on these issues and establish a framework for the revitalization of legacy cities. The Partnership was founded by The American Assembly, the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, and the Center for Community Progress.