Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. Until his death on July 4, 1826, Jefferson remained an important American figure, accomplishing many feats as diverse as his own personal interests. He was Governor to my home state of Virginia, Secretary of state, minister to France, and our nation’s third President. And yet Jefferson never wanted to be defined by the offices he’d held, preferring to be remembered for his ideas and accomplishments. He was the voice of the American Revolution, writer of the Declaration of Independence, father of the University of Virginia, author of the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, and negotiator of the Louissianna Purchase. And somehow, during his eighty-three year life, he still managed to indulge his own passion for learning, studying multiple subjects including music, weather, architecture, science, and philosophy.
To celebrate Thomas Jefferson Day Chris and I requested a vacation day and siezed the opportunity to take a road trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. Although Jefferson himself discouraged celebration of his April 13 birthday, stating that “The only birthday I ever commemorate is that of our Independence, the Fourth of July,” the Thomas Jefferson Foundation celebrates Thomas Jefferson Day at Monticello each year by honoring individuals “who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. president, and UVa founder, excelled and held in high regard.” We attended this year’s ceremony which included performances by the U.S. Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and a stirring and particularly relevant address concerning our nation’s fiscal and economic future by Former Secretary of Commerce, Philanthropist, and 2011 Recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership, Peter G. Peterson.
After the ceremony we toured the main level of Jefferson’s “essay in architecture” which, due to his many transformations, took over forty years to complete. Chris and I had never been to Monticello, and the house and grounds are truly and amazing testament to Jefferson’s passions for art and science.