Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4th, 1826

What a remarkable thing it is that Thomas Jefferson, the author of so much of what we call America, in word and spirit, should have died on the 4th of July, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. How unbelievably amazing that John Adams should die on that very same day. Two presidents, two founding fathers - it certainly leads one to believe that they loved this country enough to hang on until its birthday to leave this earth behind.

Last words are notoriously open to revisionism, but popular legend, at least, if not historical fact, leads us to believe that Jefferson awoke on the night of the 3rd, and asked 'This is the 4th?', and was assured that it was, to comfort him. He died around noon on Independence Day. A few hours later, not realizing the great man had passed, John Adams was heard to say, 'Thomas Jefferson still survives', before leaving this mortal coil.

Of course, Adams was right...Jefferson did survive, and he does so even yet, as long as we keep his words in our hearts. We are well and truly blessed to have been guided by the wisdom of so many great men in the days when the durability of our national experiment was very much in doubt. My urgent hope and prayer this Independence Day is that our troops will fight well, live long, and rest easy in the assurance that they have the undying gratitude of a grateful nation. God bless each and every one of our men and women in uniform, as they struggle to bring Jefferson's vision of liberty to life in a land far from our own shores. American exceptionalism? You better believe it; now, forever, and always...but the American vision is a universal one, open to all who would dedicate themselves to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...

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