Amy Grant, Vince Gill at Washington Library: D.C. Scene

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Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and ambassador to China, and Mary Kaye Huntsman.

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Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and ambassador to China, and Mary Kaye Huntsman. Close

Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and ambassador to China, and Mary Kaye Huntsman.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Curtis Viebranz, chief executive of Mount Vernon, and Fred W. Smith, the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Close

Curtis Viebranz, chief executive of Mount Vernon, and Fred W. Smith, the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Amy Grant, singer and songwriter, and Elizabeth Hicks, fundraising consultant. Close

Amy Grant, singer and songwriter, and Elizabeth Hicks, fundraising consultant.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Ross Perot, center, the former presidential candidate and president of the Perot Foundation. Close

Ross Perot, center, the former presidential candidate and president of the Perot Foundation.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Gay Gaines, Mount Vernon patron, and David McCullough, author and historian. Close

Gay Gaines, Mount Vernon patron, and David McCullough, author and historian.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Maureen Witter and Jon Witter, president of retail and direct banking for Capital One Bank. Close

Maureen Witter and Jon Witter, president of retail and direct banking for Capital One Bank.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Vince Gill, singer and songwriter. Close

Vince Gill, singer and songwriter.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Fireworks displayed over the Potomac at the Mount Vernon gala to celebrate the opening of the National Library for the Study of George Washington. Close

Fireworks displayed over the Potomac at the Mount Vernon gala to celebrate the opening of the National Library for... Read More

The people who brought the $100 million Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington to fruition were honored last night with a gala celebration on the lawn of his Mount Vernon plantation, the library’s new home.

Fred W. Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, dined with Mount Vernon’s chief executive officer, Curtis Viebranz, and Jonathan Witter, Capital One Bank’s president of retail and direct banking and a library donor.

The foundation contributed more than $30 million to the libary. David Rubenstein, who was not present last night, was among those who gave at the $10 million-to-$29 million level.

A meal of Chesapeake crab, beef tenderloin and chocolate crunch cake was served in a tent with guards in colonial soldiers’ uniforms. Historian David McCullough, author of “1776,” enhanced the evening’s historical ambience.

Before the meal, 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot, the president of the Perot Foundation, stood on the piazza overlooking the Potomac and talked about his collection of paintings depicting Washington, which have been copied for Mount Vernon.

Nearby Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, and Republican candidate for president last year, said his family has also joined the ranks of major Mount Vernon donors. As for his own political future, he said, “We’re in private time right now,” as his wife, Mary Kaye, smiled.

Channeling George

Guests debated how the founding father would manage the debt-ceiling crisis, Syria, Iran and other issues.

“He would do something selfless,” one guest said.

“I have a schoolgirl crush on George Washington,” confessed Amy Grant, who slid off her shoes and strapped a guitar over her black gown to perform a set with her husband, Vince Gill.

“We were the best you could get for free,” Gill joked.

He said he always enjoyed coming to Washington, because like the man the city is named for, it reminds him of the power of personal sacrifice. He said going to Arlington National Cemetery was “the most spiritual experience of my life.”

The evening ended on the lawn where performers in colonial attire read from Washington’s letters.

Then the Mount Vernon doors opened and an actor dressed as George Washingon stood before the guests, many of whom held glasses of Moet Imperial and looked dumbstruck by the actor’s likeness.

Fireworks exploded while patriotic songs were played.

(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Lewis Lapham’s podcast and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writer on this story: Stephanie Green in Washington at sgreen57@bloomberg.net or on Twitter @stephlgreen.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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