Thomas Jefferson stopped by the office the other day for a chat on his way to spend a week at the beach.
Don’t laugh. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Folks claim they’ve seen UFOs all the time. Others hold seances to reconnect with their great aunt Clementine. I talk to the Founding Fathers. So, what?
It was a great opportunity to talk with the father of democracy, especially during this contentious time in our country. After all, Jefferson is one of the men who forged this great nation and the political system that has endured for more than 240 years.
“Mr. President,” I said, “we’re facing some difficult times in America. Our people are deeply divided over so many issues, from taxes to health care to immigration.”
“Immigration? Are we still letting in the French?”
“Well, I suppose we are. But today, our biggest immigration problem involves Mexico. The current president wants to build a wall at the border, and one of our western states recently passed a law that allows police to arrest and deport people who can’t prove they are in the United States legally.”
“A western state? You mean Kentucky?”
“No sir. Farther west. Arizona.”
“Arizona. It’s our 48th state.”
“Amazing. America now has 48 states.”
“Actually, sir, we have 50 states.”
I decided not to pursue the subject of additional states any further, lest Jefferson find out about California and I must explain Richard Nixon and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“You know, Mr. President, all of the political discord in America might have a positive side. More and more citizens seem to be engaged in what’s happening in our government, and they are standing up to voice their displeasure with the job their elected officials are doing. Unfortunately, we are deeply divided, and no one wants to work together. Everybody’s more interested in their side being right.”
“Do you still have political parties, young man?”
“Yes, sir. Mainly, we have Democrats and Republicans. They seem to spend more time promising things than delivering them. Sometimes, it seems that all the political parties do is snipe at how awful the other party is.”
“Washington warned us that political parties would one day divide the nation, and we didn’t listen to him. I won’t tell him about this when I get back. We’ll never hear the end of it, and Martha will be furious at me for getting him riled.”
Jefferson stood up to leave.
“Thank you for your time, young man. It sounds as though the republic is facing some daunting challenges. Yet I believe the foundation we laid for you will get you through the tough times. We never intended this to be pretty. Always remember Ben Franklin’s words.”
“What words, sir?”
“We were having a hard time at the Constitutional Convention and Ben encouraged us to seek common ground. He said that in his long life, he’d been forced by better information and thought to change opinions he once thought were right, but he found to be otherwise. And he encouraged us to all pay more respect to the opinions of others.”
“That’s good advice, sir. Perhaps Americans today should do the same.”