As we celebrate our nation’s founding, history teacher Bob Hammitt from Oregon shares one of his favorite anecdotes about our forefathers and the origins of civil discourse:
The story of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Adams and Jefferson were two of the most important of the founding fathers and signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the Declaration, many of the ideas were those of John Adams.
After the country was born, the two men had very different ideas. They argued vehemently, and became bitter rivals.
Both would become Presidents, but they felt so negatively towards each other they did not speak for over a decade. Adams refused to attend Jefferson’s inauguration.
Finally, in 1812 Adams broke the silence and wrote a letter to Jefferson. They put aside their differences, and became great friends again. They exchanged regular letters for the rest of their lives.
On July 4, 1826, Adams was 90 and Jefferson 83. They both died that day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Adams believed Jefferson had outlasted him. His last words were “Jefferson lives.” He was wrong though, as Jefferson had passed five hours before.
This country was founded on dissent. Smart people can disagree with each other. Usually what comes out of intelligent and passionate disagreement is the best thing: compromise. Remember, the one who disagrees with you is not the problem, the one that doesn’t care is.
Bob Hammitt, Guest Contributor
Check out Bob’s page “More Than Half Full” for positive news and feel good stories from around the country.