Niagara Gazette — One hundred and eighty-eight years ago today, our nation’s second president, John Adams, uttered his last bitter, ironic words: “Jefferson lives.”
Thomas Jefferson didn’t have much of a response. He’d died earlier that day.
In one of a thousand quirks surrounding the wonderful accident that was our nation’s birth, two of our most revered founding fathers, mortal political enemies who spent the better part of our nation’s youth slugging it out in a political discourse that would make even today’s leaders blush, both died 50 years to the day after declaring these states united.
On the day where we mark our patriotism free from work, lounging, eating hot dogs and gazing at spectacular fireworks displays, we can also take solace that our society will endure.
It may seem, with all that’s wrong in this land, like we are destined to fall. But history suggests otherwise. We have overcome colonial rule, great dissension, a Great Depression, a Great Recession. We’ve ended tyranny in far-away lands and made this a world where freedom can ring.
It isn’t easy work, to be sure. Freedom is a tough slog through bouts of indecision, indifference and indecency toward the values we hold true. While we fight this battle, we aspire to attain our founding fathers’ same lofty goal, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “
Say what you like about America in the new millennium, but those truths are still self-evident.
Two enemies, Adams and Jefferson, so bitterly opposed — and one peacefully handed power to the other. The world had never seen that before. It was a remarkable accomplishment. For the first time in history the will of the people prevailed over the whims of power.
Today, on the anniversary of when it all began, we cast away cynical views of our grand democratic experiment in favor of a celebration — of everything we’ve done and everything we hope to do.
Jefferson lives, indeed.