American Conversations with the Archivist of the United States

Who Is the Archivist?

Allen Weinstein is the ninth Archivist of the United States, the head of the agency, appointed by the President of the United States.

Allen WeinsteinBiography of Dr. Allen Weinstein, Ninth Archivist of the U.S.
Please note: resignation effective December 19, 2008.

Adrienne Thomas
Effective December 20, 2008, Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas.

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Planning Your Visit

Events in this series will be held at the William G. McGowan Theater in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, which is located on the National National Archives Building, Washington, DCMall at Constitution Ave. and 7th Street, N.W., and is fully accessible. Use the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue.

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American Conversations are free and open to the public.

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Call the NARA opening-status line at 301-837-0700 or call the Federal Government's Office of Personnel Management at 202-606-1900 or visit for an announcement indicating if we are closed, opening late, or closing early.

Calendar of Events


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American Conversations with the Archivist of the United States

American Conversations is a series of informal conversations between the Archivist and people who've shaped the dialogue about the interpretation and use of American heritage.


John Sweeney

America Needs A Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice

Tuesday, January 13
John J. Sweeney will join Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein for an “American Conversation” to explore the role of the labor movement throughout American history. Mr. Sweeney has been president of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations) since 1995. He is the author of America Needs A Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice.

Previous American Conversations

Daniel Schorr

Come to Think of It:  Notes on the Turn of the Millennium

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomes award-winning journalist Daniel Schorr for an “American Conversation.” As the last surviving member of Edward R. Murrow’s legendary CBS reporting team still active in journalism, Dan Schorr has covered the administrations of 12 Presidents and the beginning and end of the Cold War. His latest book, Come to Think of It:  Notes on the Turn of the Millennium, contains a collection of his essays for National Public Radio from the post–Cold War years, 1990–present. Daniel Schorr is currently a senior news analyst for NPR.

(American Conversation held December 11, 2008.)


Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomes four political commentators to discuss the impact of new technology, the expansion of voting groups, and weakening party loyalty. Panelists include E. J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and senior fellow in governance studies, Brookings Institution; David Brooks, New York Times columnist and commentator on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer; and Douglas Brinkley, professor, Rice University, and author of American Heritage History of the United States.

(American Conversation held October 14, 2008.)

E. L. Doctorow


Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomes award-winning novelist E. L. Doctorow for an “American Conversation.” Doctorow’s work depicts various eras and personalities in American history and has been published in 30 languages. His novels include The March, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, and The Waterworks. He currently holds the Lewis and Loretta Glucksman Chair of English and American Letters at New York University.

(American Conversation held September 25, 2008.)

Cokie Roberts

Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomed Cokie Roberts to discuss her newest book, Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation. Roberts tells the story of remarkable women and their achievements in moving the fledgling nation forward. She reveals the often surprising and compelling stories of determined and passionate women who faced the challenges of the times and laid the groundwork for a better society. The program took place in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building. A book signing followed the program.

(American Conversation held May 7, 2008.)

AOL vice-chairman emeritus, philanthropist, sports team owner, and documentary film producer Ted Leonsis

Presented and discussed his film, Nanking

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomed Ted Leonsis, vice-chairman emeritus of AOL, philanthropist, sports team owner, and documentary film producer, for a screening of his 2007 film, Nanking. The film expertly connects archival footage and photos of the events to deeply moving interviews with Chinese survivors, testimonies of former Japanese soldiers, and filmed stage readings of letters and diaries. It was followed by an American Conversation about Leonsis’ interest in the Japanese Army’s siege of this Chinese city in December 1937. Leonsis is now chairman of Revolution Money, a financial services company.

(American Conversation held March 5, 2008.)


Former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush

Family and Friends in a Public Life

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomes former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush in an American Conversation. Since leaving the White House in 1993, Mrs. Bush has continued to serve others with tireless energy and good humor. She has supported many causes and authored several books—including the best-selling Millie’s Book, whose profits benefited the literacy cause. Her most recent book, Reflections, documents her life after the White House.

(American Conversation held January 25, 2008.)

James Zogby, Founder and President of the Arab American Institute (AAI)

Arab American Heritage

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomed James Zogby for a discussion focusing on Arab American heritage. A lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues, U.S.-Arab relations, and the history of the Arab American community, Zogby is founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, DC-based organization that serves as a major political and policy center regarding Arab American issues.

(American Conversation held November 8, 2007.)



Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

Leading Ladies

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) for a discussion of her book Leading Ladies, which describes the lives of extraordinary women who excelled in fields previously closed to women or considered beyond their capacity. The book examines women who blazed paths in science, medicine, military service, voting rights, social reform, and national politics. A book signing followed the program.

(American Conversation held October 24, 2007.)

Rep. Tom Lantos

A New Foreign Policy?

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) joined Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein for a discussion of the issues shaping U.S. foreign policy today and the challenges facing future generations. Lantos was serving his 13th term in the House of Representatives and was chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Born in Budapest, Hungary, he is the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.

(American Conversation held October 17, 2007.)

Congressman James Clyburn, majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives

"Race, Power, and Congress": A Conversation with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus

Congressman James Clyburn, Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives; Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, joined moderators Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein for a historic discussion on the experiences of African American legislators as they help to shape the social, political and economic framework that governs all Americans.

(American Conversation held September 24, 2007.)

Geoffrey Ward, author of The War

The War: An Intimate History

Archivist Allen Weinstein welcomed Geoffrey Ward for a discussion focusing on Ward’s book The War, a companion to the PBS documentary by Ken Burns. The book brings to life the stories of more than 40 ordinary men and women who experienced—and helped to win—the most devastating war in history. A book signing followed the discussion.

(American Conversation held September 11, 2007.)

David McCullough
50th Anniversary of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

At the Truman Library & Museum in Independence, MO, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein welcomed historian and author David McCullough. The discussion was in conjunction with the opening of a new exhibition on the American presidency, Treasures of the Presidents.

(American Conversation held June 13, 2007.)

R. NICHOLAS BURNS, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Monitoring the World

Ambassador Burns joined Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein in a discussion of global issues in 2007. Ambassador Burns serves as the senior career Foreign Service appointee in the State Department. He previously served as the United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; U.S. Ambassador to Greece; Spokesman of the Department of State; Special Assistant to President Clinton and Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs; and, under President George H.W. Bush, Director for Soviet (and then Russian) Affairs.

(American Conversation held March 15, 2007.)


Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein was joined by Richard Norton Smith in an American Conversation with author Tom Wheeler. The discussion focused on Wheeler’s book Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln became President of a divided United States during a period of technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels that gave the North an advantage was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field. Tom Wheeler is president of the Foundation for the National Archives and a partner with Core Capitol Partners. Richard Norton Smith is a historian, biographer, and nationally recognized authority on the American Presidency.

(American Conversation held February 8, 2007.)

New Culture: The Museum Renaissance

Washington, DC, is experiencing an incredible boom in the creation and re-creation of its museums. A distinguished panel of prominent Washington leaders will explore why this is occurring, and examine the relevance of museums in the age of the Internet, explain the emphasis on creating "experience," and contemplate whether there are enough visitors to support this dramatic expansion.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and National Archives Experience director Marvin Pinkert led a discussion, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The panel of distinguished guests included:

  • Newseum executive director and senior vice president Joe Urschel
  • National Museum of American History director Brent D. Glass
  • National Museum of African-American Culture and History director Lonnie Bunch
  • National Portrait Gallery director Marc Pachter
  • Architect of the Capitol Alan M. Hantman
  • U.S. Capitol Visitor Center exhibits director Marty Sewell

(American Conversation held January 18, 2007.)

Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Ken Mehlman in a conversation with Allen WeinsteinWatch the Video Link to video

Ken Mehlman joined the Archivist for a discussion of his career and broad trends in American political life.

Ken Mehlman has served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee since January 2005 and was National Field Director for Bush-Cheney 2000, working with the campaign leadership in all 50 states. From 2001 to 2003, he was White House Political Director.

(In the spirit of bipartisanship, a leading spokesperson for the Democratic Party will offer the view from the Democratic side in a later "American Conversation" to be announced shortly.)

(American Conversation recorded June 14, 2006.)

Two Generations of an American Political Family

Cokie Roberts and Lindy Boggs laugh with Allen Weinstein the evening of May 10, 2006, on stage at the National Archives Building. Watch the Video Link to the Roberts-Boggs video (39 min.)

Former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs and her daughter, noted journalist Cokie Roberts, joined Archivist Allen Weinstein for a conversation about their mother/daughter relationship in an influential political family. Mrs. Boggs served nine terms in the House of Representatives—the first woman elected to the House from that state. She was the first woman to chair a national political convention and the first woman to serve as Ambassador to the Vatican. Mrs. Boggs is the author of Washington Through a Purple Veil.

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News covering Congress, politics, and public policy. She has won countless journalistic awards and has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Her books include We Are Our Mothers' Daughters and Founding Mothers.

(American Conversation held May 10, 2006.)

Photo of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Life as First Lady, Senator, and best-selling author

Watch the Video Link to the Clinton video
(57 min.)
Read the Transcript

Senator Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000. She serves on a number of committees including Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senate Armed Services, and Environment and Public Works.

Clinton also chairs the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. She is the author of several best-selling books including her autobiography, Living History, and It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us

(American Conversation held May 9, 2006.)

Photo of John Hope Franklin JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN
The Historian and the African American Experience

Watch the Video Link to the Franklin video
(62 min.)

Distinguished historian and lifelong civil rights activist Professor John Hope Franklin joined Archivist Allen Weinstein and Dr. Lonnie Bunch, director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, to discuss his careers as educator, scholar, and activist.

Professor Franklin is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History and for seven years was professor of legal history in the Law School at Duke University. His numerous publications include The Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction after the Civil War, and From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans. In 1990 a collection of essays covering a teaching and writing career of 50 years was published under the title Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938-1988.

Through the years, he has been active in professional and education organizations and has long been recognized as one of the most important scholars of the 20th century.

(American Conversation held March 14, 2006.)

Ken Burns


Watch the Video Link to Ken Burns video
(48 min.)

Discussion of his past work and his current project, The War, a seven-part series examining the ways in which World War II touched the lives of American families.

Emmy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns joined Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, to discuss his past work and his current project, a series on World War II to be released in 2007.

For more than 20 years, Burns has been making documentary films focusing on American life and culture. Since the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War (1990) and Baseball (1994).

The War, a seven-part series produced by Burns and Lynn Novick, will examine the ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of families throughout America. By focusing on the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns, the series will portray this enormous worldwide struggle on an intimate, human scale.

(American Conversation held February 9, 2006.)

The changing political culture of Washington, DC, in the years since the 9/11 attacks.

Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and serves as senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission, working to ensure that our institutions of government can be maintained in the event of a terrorist attack on Washington.

He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other major publications and regularly appears on television news programs. He is a member of the board of directors of the Public Broadcasting Service and the Campaign Legal Center.

Ornstein's many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future, Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy, and Debt and Taxes: How America Got Into Its Budget Mess and What to Do About It. He is the co-author of the forthcoming The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America.

(American Conversation recorded Thursday, January 19, 2006.)

Link to the Bunch video

Remembrance and Reality: The New African American Museum

Watch the Video Link to the Bunch video (103 min.)

A Talk with Dr. Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture

This Smithsonian Institution museum has been decades in the making and soon will be assigned a location in downtown Washington, DC. "It is a challenge to make sure that this is a museum that allows people to revel in African American culture," Dr. Bunch has noted, "but it [will also be] a museum that says what it means to be an American. Everyone will want to come here because it will help us understand courage and resiliency and other traits." This program is co-sponsored by NARA's Afro-American History Society.

See Event Press Release

(American Conversation held December 13, 2005.)

Link to the Cheney video

A Chronology of Freedom: A Talk with Lynne Cheney about the way Americans have come to perceive their past.

Watch the Video Link to the Cheney video (56 min.)

Read the Transcript

Her recent book, A Time for Freedom: What Happened When in America, is an extension of her longstanding interest in the education of young people in American history.

(American Conversation held November 30, 2005.)

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