No President ever wrote more than Jefferson and no President ever tried to write more than Jefferson. His letters, books, and notes on this or that have been studied more than any other Presidential collection? Why is that? Well, the voluminous amount in shear numbers dwarfs the other Presidents. Just the letters alone put historians in a tizzy as Jefferson wrote letter after letter to both friend or foe.
Here are just a few lessons one can glean from the works of Thomas Jefferson:
1. Beware the power of corporations
“I hope we shall…crush n its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
Now, corporations of the early 1800s bear no resemblance to the behemoths of today, but Jefferson foresaw the stranglehold these economic machines could have on the economy.
2. Jefferson on Education
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.“
“Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”
Being that the University of Virginia was Jefferson’s idea, one need not go very much further than to look at how Jefferson sees education as essential part of the democracy. But here’s the things – Jefferson saw education as a means to good governance and oversight of the government while education today is seen as an economic tool. These are two vastly different purposes. If you ask some in education (of which I am one), then they would believe the purpose of a good liberal education is to free the mind and create a well-rounded human being capable of conversing in the arts, sciences, or liberal arts. High goals, yes, but not everyone goes to college nor do they need to make a living in today’s world. Sure it helps, but as President, Obama needs to delineate the purposes of education. Maybe national standards are on the way, but Obama has a chance to really reshape the purposes of education. Jefferson’s vision of an educated citizenry still permeates our society today? Will Obama reshape that vision?
Other Presidential Lessons for Obama Series
John F. Kennedy
George H.W. Bush