Spring 2000 Conference

Threats to Symbols of American Democracy



University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

April 10 to April 11, 2000

This conference examined the relationship between our architecture and symbolic understanding of government. It specifically investigated whether attacks on public buildings like the National Capitol and the Murrah Building are related in any way to the architecture and its symbolic value.

Distinguished Guests

  • Wilton Dillon – Scholar Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
  • Honorable Wilson Livingood – Sergeant-at-Arms, U.S. House of Representatives
  • John Norton Moore – Director, Institute on Law and National Security, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Robert Vaughan – President, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
  • Michael Wermuth – Rand Corp, Washington D.C., Advisory Panel on Domestic Response to Terrorism
  • Richard Guy Wilson – Commonweath Professor and Chair, Architectural History, University of Virginia School of Architecture

Key Panels and Discussions

Case Presentations were provided on the Murrah Federal Building attack, the shooting in the U.S. Capitol by Russell Weston, and the Columbine shootings.

Representative Insights

“When a traumatic event starts, it’s too late for a leader to establish trust. You have to work at establishing that before you get into a crisis situation. If the public goes into it with suspicion or cynicism toward leadership there is nothing much that a leader can do to gain that trust in a crisis.” – Ambassador W. N. Howell
“We have to try to minimize the risk to the greatest extent possible without making the Capitol look like an armed camp, and that’s a challenge.” – Wilson Livingood
“I don’t get the calls where somebody says, ‘Hey, we have been doing everything you said, we’ve been here a half hour, he’s coming out, thanks a lot.’ I don’t get those. I get the calls that ‘it’s all messed up, we have a problem.’ Well, what have you been doing? And you find that for four, five, six hours, two days, they have been droning endlessly about ‘Charlie, when are you coming out? We need you to come out, Charlie!” And no one ever stops to listen to this guy.” – Gary Noesner, Crisis Negotiation Unit, FBI