President Thomas Jefferson educated youngsters in the Nixon Library’s East Room, where he recited the Declaration of Independence, explained the passages to the young audience, and taught them how the Declaration is relevant today.
Jefferson’s presentation was the third in the Nixon Foundation’s summer series Meet the Presidents. Each program includes interactive presentations by a different American President, Q&A sessions with the children, photo opportunities, coloring time, and punch and cookies as a special treat.
Jefferson opened the program by recalling the circumstances that led the 13 colonies to declare independence from Great Britain.
Noting that the colonists had no voice in the British Parliament, Jefferson commended his colleague Richard Henry Lee for proposing a motion to the Continental Congress in June 1776 to declare independence. The members of the Congress, who included such giants as John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, chose Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence.
As he read through the document, the President explained to the children what the meaning of several passages were, taught them about government structures, and different types of government systems. “Governments exist to serve us and protect us,” declared Jefferson, “Not the other way around.”
The Declaration was adopted, and after six years of war and two of negotiations, the United States of America was established. Jefferson served as its Ambassador to France before being chosen as George Washington’s Secretary of State and later John Adams’ Vice President. In 1801, he was inaugurated as the third President of the United States.
“What was the most significant achievement of my presidency?” Jefferson asked the audience. Youngsters enthusiastically shouted, “the Louisiana Purchase!” And with that, President Jefferson took them on a “Lewis and Clark expedition” around the East Room, explaining the different obstacles they would have encountered.
Questions for the President during the question and answer session included those ranging from “Did you have any pets?” to “Are you the real Thomas Jefferson?” One boy asked what the President did in his spare time; he explained that in addition to being a politician, he was also an author, a farmer, a scientist, an inventor, and an architect.
Audience members were enthralled with the President’s performance. Zach Cobb commented, “I didn’t really know much about him, but he taught me a lot and now I know.”
Travis Tannehill enjoyed President Jefferson’s presentation in regard to his inventions, and also really liked “walking around like Lewis and Clark.”
The presentation was similarly enjoyed by Sara Pecoraro: “He connected with us and brought a lot to us.”
Bring your youngsters to the remaining three presentations in our Meet the Presidents series: President Abraham Lincoln (August 3), First Lady Pat Nixon (August 17), and President Richard Nixon (August 31).
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