Originally broadcast: February 8, 2009
What is the purpose of philosophy? What is the place of the humanities in day-to-day life? How can asking “why” contribute to the lives of North Dakotans, Americans, and people around the world? These questions direct the discussion of Why’s very first episode featuring renowned humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson.
Jenkinson, who is most famous for portraying Thomas Jefferson in the long-running and always inspiring public radio show The Thomas Jefferson Hour, is one of the most sought-after humanities scholars in the United States.
A cultural commentator who has devoted most of his professional career to public humanities programs, Clay Jenkinson has been honored by two presidents for his work. On November 6, 1989, he received from President George Bush one of the first five Charles Frankel Prizes, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ highest award (now called the National Humanities Medal), at the nomination of the NEH Chair, Lynne Cheney. On April 11, 1994, he was the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event, when he presented Thomas Jefferson for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. When award-winning humanities documentary producer Ken Burns turned his attention to Thomas Jefferson, he asked Clay Jenkinson to be the major humanities commentator. Since his first work with the North Dakota Humanities Council in the late 1970s, including a pioneering first-person interpretation of Meriwether Lewis, Clay Jenkinson has made thousands of presentations throughout the United States and its territories, including Guam and the Northern Marianas.