No. 793



The Spanish essayist and poet George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.”
When we think about where we are as a nation today and how our present financial crisis is impacting our lives, it might be well to look back at our history and examine the views and policies that made us the most prosperous and most powerful nation on earth in less than 200 years. Personally, in view of what I have just shared, I believe a good life to study, with this in mind, is none other than our third president, Thomas Jefferson. He was brilliant and made some of the greatest contributions in the history of our country.
You may be familiar with the famous quote by former President John F. Kennedy, spoken during a dinner at the White House, when he had a group of the brightest minds in the nation assembled there. He said, “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Please allow me to remind you of some things about this remarkable man, who started learning at an early age and never stopped.
At 5, he began studying under his cousin as a tutor; at 9 he studied Latin, Greek and French; at 14, he studied classical literature and additional languages; at 16, he entered the College of William and Mary; at 23, he started his own law practice; at 25, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses; at 32, he was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress; at 33, he wrote the Declaration of Independence; at 36, he was elected the second governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry; at 40, he served in Congress for two years; at 57, he was elected the third president of the United States; at 60, he obtained the Louisiana Purchase doubling the nation’s size; at 61, he was elected to a second term as President; at 65, he retired to Monticello.
As history will bear out, there is little question that Thomas Jefferson was one of the most brilliant and capable men to ever serve in our nation’s highest office. With that in mind, to me it just makes sense that what he had to say, and the philosophy from which he governed, would serve us well in today’s times. We can learn from history and try to avoid some of the mistakes in the future that led us to the point we find ourselves today, with high unemployment and a massive national debt. Here are some quotes and thoughts attributed to Thomas Jefferson that will give us some insights for helping our leaders to right the ship of state.
“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.” “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.” “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
A final question: Can we learn anything from men like Thomas Jefferson?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)