Widmer, a Harvard PhD in the History of American Civilization, in
the mid 1990s was best known in the smarter precincts of Central Square as Lord
Rockingham, a member of the faux-fop metal band "The Upper Crust".
After laying down his guitar, Widmer went on to write speeches
for President Bill Clinton.
Now an historian with several books to his credit, Widmer is the
Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
On Wednesday, June 13 at 7 PM, Widmer will speak before the
Cambridge Forum on the subject of religious tolerance in America.
Widmer will use two classic American texts as springboards:
George Washington's 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode
Island ("To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance") and Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem, "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport".
"Washington and Longfellow", said Widmer in a telephone
interview, "were each outlining their respective visions of what a diverse and
tolerant United States should look like. Washington's was a very smart view;
Longfellow's was a bit spacey but heartfelt. Each was able to imagine how
Newport's tiny 18th century Jewish Community was, in its own way, both
emblematic of and vital to American historic precedent."
"A Test Case for America:
Washington, Longfellow, and the Jewish Community at Newport." Parish House, The
First Parish Church,
3 Church St., Cambridge. Free.