Andrew Burstein

We honor him best by remembering... it is only in change that we preserve the timeless values for which Thomas Jefferson gave his life.
— William Jefferson Clinton

DEMOCRACY'S MUSE:  HOW THOMAS JEFFERSON BECAME AN FDR LIBERAL, A REAGAN REPUBLICAN, AND A TEA PARTY FANATIC, ALL THE WHILE BEING DEAD

In political speech, Thomas Jefferson is the eternal flame. Over the past three generations he has served both Left and Right with equal vigor.  On April 13, 1943, the founder’s 200th birthday, Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the iconic Jefferson Memorial, announcing the triumph of a liberal Jeffersonian regime.  

Ronald Reagan, as ardent a lover of Jefferson as any Democrat, enshrined him in the 1980s as a small-government conservative.  

So, who owns Jefferson, Democrats or Republicans?  The third president has had a tortuous afterlife, and remains a fixture in the culture wars of today.  

President Kennedy famously adlibbed in 1962, before an audience of Nobel Prize laureates, that theirs was the most impressive gathering at the White House “since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” What will Jefferson become as the 21st century develops?

Encomiums to Jefferson abound, sometimes from unexpected places: 

“He gave a vivid interpretation of the rightful and universal aspirations of the masses of mankind.
— Calvin Coolidge
Jefferson is the president with whom I have the most affinity.
— Jacqueline Kennedy
The greatest American who ever lived.
— Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart
Jefferson was, I think, the man of this millennium.... He exemplified in his life what a free person ought to look like.
— Conservative columnist George Will

               

DEMOCRACY'S MUSE:  HOW THOMAS JEFFERSON BECAME AN FDR LIBERAL, A REAGAN REPUBLICAN, AND A TEA PARTY FANATIC, ALL THE WHILE BEING DEAD