At a White House dinner in 1962 honoring the Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere, President John Kennedy greeted them by saying: "I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
The laureates might have been a trifle nonplussed to hear themselves collectively compared to one man, but Thomas Jefferson left his imprint on his state of Virginia; his young country, the United States; France, where he served as ambassador; and the world, where his opposition to tyranny and his advocacy of freedom have inspired generations to believe that the pursuit of happiness, as he wrote in his Declaration of Independence, is an unalienable right.
You will hear about....
His life, his loves, his legacy
The son of Virginia
Jefferson the patriot
Jefferson in Paris
Jefferson the politician
Jefferson the President
Jefferson at home
Jefferson himself opted for less opulent praise; the epitaph that he composed for his tombstone accommodated space for the dates of his birth and death, and listed the following accomplishments: author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia. Between Kennedy's description of the third president of the United States and Jefferson's own rendition of his accomplishments resides the enigma of an American philosopher who ardently believed in freedom yet owned slaves; a patriot who served his country with his talents and energies, but who was embroiled in the political machinations which rose to the surface as soon as the first president was in office; a human being who doubted the intellectual equality of African-Americans yet was engaged in a 38-year affair with a much younger female slave, with whom he fathered six children; a brilliant innovator who lived his life in debt; a man accustomed to the finer things that life could offer who espoused the simple, agrarian model for the new country he helped to found.
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