President James Monroe       

Dennis Bigelow, interpreter of 

For two decades "President Monroe" has had the pleasure of performing at multiple sites with fellow interpreters "President Jefferson" of Monticello and "President Madison" of Montpelier,
including bicentennial programs at the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson's most important achievement as president was the 1803 purchase of  the Louisiana Territory, doubling the size of the United States.  Without James Monroe as Jefferson's Minster Plenipotentiary to Napoleon's France final negotiations in Paris might easily have failed and the legacy of Jefferson's presidency significantly diminished.  Monroe got little credit for securing the treaty for the Louisiana Purchase, "the most important document in U.S. history after the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution," according to President John Quincy Adams.

In 1811 President Jefferson's successor, James Madison, found his administration in a crisis. He turned to James Monroe to be his Secretary of State and then, simultaneously, his Secretary of War, following the destruction of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.  At one point in 1814 President Madison considered having Monroe take command of the country's faltering armies on our northern border to prevent defeat.  Madison's presidency ended happily, as did our "second war for independence," in no small part because of the multiple efforts of James Monroe, who went on to become one of America's most successful but least known presidents today.

Not only was Monroe the only founding president to be wounded in the creation of the United States, but President John Quincy Adams said of our fifth and forgotten Commander in Chief: "no president did more to expand the United States and foster the security of the nation. " For too long Monroe has been lost in the shadow of his two famous neighbors, a condition neither Jefferson nor Madison desired.  For years Monroe was "the pebble in the shoe" of the incurious historian. Bigelow removes the pebble.


If the success of a presidency is a matter of good administration, good policies and leadership that unifies and uplifts the American people,  James Monroe, the fifth and forgotten president, did just that.  Who knows?

You don't know Jefferson and Madison until you know Monroe.


For the past 20 years Bigelow has performed as "President Monroe" at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, VA, an agency established for training rising federal employees as well as providing an orientation for USAID workers prior to foreign deployment.  His dramatic work creates a platform for discussing constitutional and leadership challenges, enabling participants to draw parallels between past and present.  His presentations require an intimate knowledge of domestic and world history from 1758 to Monroe's death on July 4, 1831 - five years to the day from the death of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, whose son, John Quincy Adams, was Monroe's Secretary of State and successor.  All presentations are done in costume; all questions are answered in character with debriefings at the end of the program, if requested.

Bigelow has taught "James Monroe, Last Founding Father" with dramatic finale at the University of Virginia's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and performs for The Virginia Center for Politics and the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, and for Elderhostel's "Road Scholars."  Work includes state/Federal agencies, including the FBI, to diverse audiences from Washington, D.C., NY, NY to Sackets Harbor, NY to Edenton, NC to St. Augustine, FL, to West Branch, IA, to Houston, TX and west to San Francisco and LA, plus multiple bicentennial events of the Monroe presidency, 1817-25.  Bigelow also performed at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, VA and in 2003 for White House employees in Colonial Williamsburg.

Executive Assistant Karen Wolf, formerly of The University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business, handles all appointments, contracts and "modern communications."  She is reachable at 434-882-1795.

For direct communication to discuss assignments:  email, call (434) 989-3259, or write Dennis Bigelow, 

8 Edgewood Court, Palmyra VA 22963-2535.