About Clay

About Clay Jenkinson

Clay Jenkinson 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.

In 2008, Clay became the director of The Dakota Institute through The Lewis & Clark, Fort Mandan Foundation, to further expand his humanities programs with documentary films, symposiums and literary projects. He is also the Chief Consultant for the Theodore Roosevelt Center through Dickinson State University and conducts an annual lecture series for Bismarck State College.

Clay is also widely sought after as a commencement speaker (he has several honorary doctorates); as a facilitator of teacher institutes on Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Classical Culture, the Millennium, and other topics; as a lecturer on topics ranging from the "Unresolved Issues of the Millennium," to the "Character of Meriwether Lewis"; as a consultant to a range of humanities programs, chiefly first person historical interpretation (Chautauqua). Best known for his award-winning historical impersonations of Thomas Jefferson, Clay Jenkinson also impersonates other characters, including Meriwether Lewis, John Wesley Powell, Robert Oppenheimer, Theodore Roosevelt and John Steinbeck.

Clay Jenkinson can:

Serve as a cultural commentator on a range of topics
Conduct humanities institutes and cultural tours
Present historical programs in character with audiance interaction.
Provide live video programs through i-Chat to your classroom or business.
The rates for Clay Jenkinson's professional humanities presentations will vary. if you are interested in more information or in booking or contacting Clay Jenkinson for any professionally related reason, please call Nancy Franke a Dakota Sky Education, Inc at toll free at 1 888 828 2853 or e-mail at nfranke@comcast.net

Public Speaking
If you are interested in knowing more about Clay's topics and characters, please visit http://dakotaskyed.wordpress.com. The views on the mentioned website are Clay Jenkinson's and do not reflect the views of The Thomas Jefferson Hour® nor any of its sponsors.

Social Commentary
Clay Jenkinson is a popular social commentator. While on The Thomas Jefferson Hour®, Clay strictly adheres to the rules of being a humanities scholar (neutrality). If you are interested in Clay's personal views, please consider reading Clay's Weekly Columns.

The views on the mentioned website are Clay Jenkinson's and do not reflect the views of The Thomas Jefferson Hour nor any of its sponsors.

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A Letter from Clay Jenkinson

" I am proud and a little surprised to be a Chautauquan"

When my professional life began, I never expected to spend a significant portion of it "in tights."  I am a shy man and I never dreamed of dressing up like dead historical figures.  Until I first donned a wig and spoke self-evident truths on behalf of Thomas Jefferson (1987).  I had never been in a theater production, except as the Chief Messenger in my 3rd grade's production of Cinderella.

I do love portraying historical figures, now that I have gotten used to it.  I've performed as more than a dozen great men over the years, in a dizzying range of settings, in kindergartens and maximum security prisons.  I am happy to confess that I touched off a prison riot once in southern California.  I've been arrested in costume mistaken for Ben Franklin, a golf pro, and the valet parking attendant, but I've also had the honor of performing for U.S. Presidents, 25 state legislatures, national judicial conferences, and the irrepressible miscreant Stephen Colbert.

My one iron commitment is to rigorous historical research and mastery of the material.  Beyond that, I like to play with ideas and bring history alive by treating it not like a sacred relic but as an unresolved narrative about that which is noble, that which is appalling, and that which is merely routine in human affairs.  Like my hero Jefferson, I believe in the leavening power of ideas, and the importance of a public conversation about the great issues of our experience.  Unlike Jefferson, I believe that humor is the lubricant. 

Thank you for your interest in my work.                                                                       

Clay S. Jenkinson