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Noted scholar, Perham grad, to speak at ITOW

Meet the real-life man behind some of the theories expressed in “The Da Vinci Code.”

Patrick Mendis, a scholar, international speaker, author, professor and diplomat, will be the keynote speaker at the History and Cultural Association’s annual meeting at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum on Tuesday, March 25.

While speaking on freedom and American ideals, Mendis will also examine the influence of Freemasonry on the Founding Fathers, providing insights for those interested in both history and politics, as well as the future of our nation.

In one of his books, “Commercial Providence: The Secret Destiny of the American Empire,” Mendis offers a glimpse into the mindsets of luminaries through little-known linkages between the Pilgrims and colonists, Enlightenment philosophers, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith and the Federalists.

Growing up among water buffaloes on a three-acre rice farm in Sri Lanka, Mendis received a scholarship to attend high school in the United States, and came to Perham. He graduated from Perham High School in 1979.

Mendis then traveled to Washington, D.C., where he met Vice President Walter Mondale and U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz, who have remained friends and supporters of his ever since.

After returning to Sri Lanka to obtain his bachelor of science degree in business administration and economics, Mendis came back to the United States on a Hubert Humphrey fellowship for graduate studies at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Today, Mendis is a distinguished senior fellow in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. He is also an affiliate professor of public and international affairs as well as an adjunct professor of geography and geoinformation science.

Most recently, he authored the book, “Peaceful War: How the Chinese Dream and the American Destiny Create a Pacific New World Order.”

His government and international experience include an appointment as a commissioner to the United States National Commission for UNESCO by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012, and another appointment by President George W. Bush to serve on the governing board of the United States Department of Agriculture Graduate School, as well as numbers of other positions with the Minnesota House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the World Bank and the United Nations.

Mendis will speak in Perham starting at 7 p.m. The History and Cultural Association’s annual meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Seating is limited to 120, so guests are encouraged to arrive early to be seated by 5:15 p.m.

Refreshments will be available during a brief intermission. There is no cost to attend, though a donation of $5 per person or paid membership to the association is requested to offset costs.

The History and Cultural Association of East Otter Tail County is 501c3 nonprofit comprised of the ITOW Veterans Museum, the History Museum, Pioneer Grounds, and Historical Society of East Otter Tail County.

The association has a regional focus, but its programs serve visitors from around the state and globe with the goals of developing an understanding of the past, celebrating cultural heritage, and exploring future possibilities that strengthen the bonds of community.

For more information, contact Darla Ellingson, at