"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." --
President and Mrs. Bush
Commemorate 265th Birthday of Thomas Jefferson
April 14, 2008
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. Laura and I are so honored you are here. I welcome members of my Cabinet, members of the United States Senate, folks who work in the White House, the Governor of Virginia and Anne Holton. Thank you all for coming. We're really happy you're here.
We're here tonight to commemorate the 265th birthday of Thomas Jefferson, here in a room where he once walked and in a home where he once lived. In this house, President Jefferson spread the word that liberty was the right of every individual. In this house, Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off on the mission that helped make America a continental nation. And in this house, Jefferson was known to receive guests in his bathrobe and slippers. (Laughter.) Laura said no. (Laughter.) I don't have a bathrobe. (Laughter.)
With a single sentence, Thomas Jefferson changed the history of the world. After countless centuries when the powerful and the privileged governed as they pleased, Jefferson proclaimed as a self-evident truth that liberty was a right given to all people by an Almighty.
Here in America, that truth was not fully realized in Jefferson's own lifetime. As he observed the condition of slaves in America, Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just" and "that his justice cannot sleep forever." Less than 40 years after his death, justice was awakened in America and a new era of freedom dawned.
Today, on the banks of the Tidal Basin, a statue of Thomas Jefferson stands in a rotunda that is a memorial to both the man and the ideas that built this nation. There, on any day of the week, you will find men and women of all creeds, colors, races and religions. You will find scholars, schoolchildren and visitors from every part of our country. And you will find each of them looking upward in quiet reflection on the liturgy of freedom -- the words of Thomas Jefferson inscribed on the memorial's walls.
The power of Jefferson's words do not stop at water's edge. They beckon the friends of liberty on even the most distant shores. They're a source of inspiration for people in young democracies like Afghanistan and Lebanon and Iraq. And they are a source of hope for people in nations like Belarus and Burma, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Zimbabwe, where the struggle for freedom continues.
Thomas Jefferson left us on July 4, 1826 -- fifty years to the day after our Declaration of Independence was adopted. In one of the great harmonies of history, his friend and rival John Adams died on the very same day. Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives." And he still does today. And he will live on forever, because the desire to live in freedom is the eternal hope of mankind.
Thomas Jefferson believed that education is the cornerstone of a free society, so it's therefore little surprise that he viewed the founding of the University of Virginia as one of his top achievements, as we know from both of your talks. He called the building of this school the last service he could render his country, saying, "Could I see it open? I would not ask an hour more of life."
But in fact Thomas Jefferson lived a little over a year after the University of Virginia opened its doors. During this time he was involved in the University activities, and he invited students, including a young Edgar Allan Poe, to dine with him each Sunday at nearby Monticello.
Today, Jefferson still shapes the lives of the students at the school he founded. The architecture of his academical village encourages free study in a collaborative environment, and UVA's philosophy of student self-governance epitomizes our third President's democratic ideals.
"One of my favorite economics essays from which I've drawn bottomless inspiration is Leonard Read's 'I, Pencil.' ...
Read traces the family tree of the pencil from the Oregon loggers who harvest its cedar wood, to the California millworkers who cut the wood into thin slats, to Mississippi refinery workers, to the Dutch East Indies farmers who produce an oil used to make erasers. ...
Read illuminates: 'There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work.' ...
Appreciating this voluntary configuration of human energies, Read argued, is key to possessing 'an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.'
Indeed. Without that faith, we are susceptible to the force of class-warfare mobs and the arrogance of command-and-control bureaucrats in Washington who believe the role of private American entrepreneurs, producers and wealth generators is to 'grow the economy' and who 'think at some point you have made enough money.'
The progressives who want to bring down 'Wall Street' will snipe that [Apple co-founder Steve] Jobs was one of 'theirs,' not 'ours.' He belonged to no one. He was transcendently committed to excellence and beauty and innovation. And yes, he made gobs of money pursuing it all while benefiting hundreds of millions of people around the world whom he never met, but who shed a deep river of tears upon learning of his death [last] week.
From 'I, Pencil' to iPhone, such is the profound, everlasting miracle of iCapitalism -- a triumph of individualism over collectivism, freedom over force and markets over master planning.
To borrow an old Apple slogan: It just works."
Lois J. Crawford