Village fund-raising to begin with Ed Rogers taking lead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Shelby County welcomed home an Alabama success story last week when Ed Rogers dedicated himself to the future of The American Village.

&uot;I’m doing this because I want kids to know, particularly Alabama kids, that the Oval Office is not that far away,&uot; Rogers told members of the Village’s board of trustees last week.

&uot;After all, a guy from Berry High School,&uot; he said, referring to himself, &uot;spent 10 years in and out of there.&uot;

Rogers agreed to lead the effort to complete and enhance the President’s Classroom and Oval Office at the Village, a full-sized replica of a portion of the White House’s Oval Office.

His leadership began with the announcement that he had pledged $50,000 to the effort.

Goal for the initiative is $250,000 with an overall Cornerstone of Liberty campaign goal of $10 million for operations and expansion of the Village.

Tom Walker, executive director of the Village, said Rogers was uniquely qualified to help with the fund-raising effort.

&uot;He’s obviously passionate about it,&uot; Walker said. &uot;He’s got a solid track record, and he’s committed to this.&uot;

Rogers served in the White House under two presidents.

Under President Ronald Reagan, he served as special assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Political Affairs.

He also served from January 1989 to August 1991 under President George H.W. Bush as deputy assistant to the president and executive assistant to the White House chief of staff.

Before serving in the White House, he was senior deputy to Bush-Quayle campaign manager Lee Atwater from February 1987 through the general election in 1988.

Gov. Bob Riley, who chairs the Village Cornerstone of Liberty Commission, appointed Rogers to chair the fund-raising initiative.

J. Danny Cooper, who serves as vice chair of the Commission, said there was no one better qualified to lead the effort.

&uot;Ed is an example of the American story &045; graduating from an Alabama high school, continuing his education, getting involved in the political process because of what he believed in and then having the opportunity to serve in the White House under the President of the United States,&uot; Cooper said.

&uot;Now, he is giving back to his home state so that young people may be patriotically inspired to be active participants in American self government.&uot;

Rogers told members of the Village’s board that there were several reasons he had agreed to take on this new challenge.

&uot;There is a compelling need for ongoing civics education and citizenship,&uot; he said.

Rogers said he sees this need during classes he teaches at the University of Alabama’s law school.

&uot;I’m surprised at the students who reach their second year of law school and lack basic knowledge of civics.&uot;

Another reason this initiative was an attractive one to Rogers was its placement.

&uot;The American Village is in Alabama,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s one of the few things Alabama has that no one else has. Everyone who cares about the area should try to nurture it.&uot;

Perhaps the most important reason, however, is the ultimate fragility of America itself.

&uot;Our institutions are manmade. They are fragile,&uot; Rogers said. &uot;Ultimately, our government institutions are no better than the people who work in them.

&uot;A clear commitment and a clear sense of history are necessary,&uot; he said, referring to what The Village has to offer students.

He said during the years he spent working in government he learned that those who do the best job are not always the most zealous.

&uot;They are the ones with the best sense of history &045; those with the best sense of what the founding fathers had in mind,&uot; Rogers said.

It is with that attitude that Rogers said he would go forward with his efforts which will include more than just fund-raising.

Walker said Rogers had also pledged to visit the Village now and then to teach Alabama’s students himself.

In addition, Rogers said, he will continue the efforts of other Village advocates to increase state and national visibility of the civics classroom to ensure support in the future.

Rogers currently serves as vice chairman of Barbour Griffith & Rogers, a public affairs firm in Washington D.C. which he founded along with Haley Barbour in 1991. Barbour currently serves as governor of Mississippi.

Rogers also works with Balch & Bingham, an Alabama-based law firm.

Following his graduation from Berry High School in Hoover, he earned his law degree from the University of Alabama, where he currently serves on the President’s Cabinet, as a member of the National Advisory Board and as a visiting professor for the law school.

He is also a founding investor in Milestone Merchant Partners, a private equity asset management company, and since 1999, he has served as president of LEHI Partners LLC, a private investment partnership.

He is married to the former Edwina Clifton of Wetumpka, who currently serves as an adviser to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions.

They have a son, Haley, and a daughter, Sabra, and reside in McLean, Va.

The American Village is a civic education center located in Montevallo which is now in its fifth year of school programs serving students throughout Alabama and the southeast.

For information about the Village, call 665-3535.