Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

Today is April 13, celebrated as a holiday in Charlottesville (Founder's Day). City offices are closed; the heavy hand of local government is on hiatus.

If Thomas Jefferson were still alive, today would be his 262nd birthday. Were he still alive, he could not be pilloried as a DWEM (Dead White European Male) because he would not be dead. As to the rest, he would be guilty. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

At Mr. Jefferson's home at Monticello (the "little mountain" overlooking the City of Charlottesville), there will be, as might be expected, a celebration:

Representatives of local, state, and national institutions will present wreaths in honor of the nation’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, who was born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, his father’s estate on the Rivanna River about two miles east of Monticello. (On the Julian calendar in use at the time, Jefferson was born April 2. The Gregorian calendar used today was adopted in 1752, and 11 days were added to “old style” dates.)

The commemorative address will be delivered by Daniel J. Meador, emeritus professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. The author of numerous books and the recipient of many awards, Meador first joined the UVa law faculty in 1957. He was a Fulbright Lecturer in England in 1965-66 and then served as dean of the University of Alabama Law School. He returned to UVa in 1970 as James Monroe Professor of Law. He was an assistant U.S. attorney general in 1977-79, then director of UVa’s Graduate Program for Judges from 1979 to 1995. He retired in 1997.
Linked to the birthday celebration is the launch, on the Monticello website, of a new feature that allows web visitors to take a virtual tour of the house and the grounds. A news release explains:
Monticello Explorer, which was developed by Monticello staff members with Second Story Interactive Studios of Portland, Ore., offers an array of new ways to experience Monticello, from 3-D models that allow virtual visitors to tour the house room by room to an interactive map that shows the buildings, roads, gardens, and fields of Monticello mountain over the decades. Computer animations, panoramic views, still images, text, and video contribute to a distinctive online experience.
I wanted to end this entry with a single, representative, profound quotation from Mr. Jefferson. A hard choice indeed. But, given the newness of the blogosphere and my neophyte status in that new world, this one seemed particularly apropos:
"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." -- Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying..." -- if that doesn't describe blogging, I don't know what does.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

1 comment:

Will Vehrs said...

I celebrated Mr. Jefferson's birthday early. Last week I rented a costume and portrayed him for four third grade classes at Swift Creek Elementary. If only Rick Sincere could have reviewed my performance ....

The range of his interests and accomplishments is truly daunting for a portrayal, but luckily the kids mainly wanted to know if he knew Thomas Edison and if he had any pets.