Posts Tagged ‘Monticello’

That’s the funny name of a farm near here. It never fails to tickle me each time I pass by, it speaks to the klutz in me, and to that part of me that thinks, “Well, you could step in …..!” The promise of an opportunity in the midst of a screw-up.

This morning we have one presidential candidate who would like to hold his taxes in close to the vest, and another who thinks everybody deserves to have private emails. The problem is that when you decide to run for the highest office in the land, everything is fair game. I cannot imagine anything Hillary might say in a private email that would (excuse the pun) trump the Donald’s oversized ego and grandiose public talking points.

He speaks in Twitter, full of incomplete sentences and contradictions. And he gives friends and enemies alike nicknames, as if he were a twelve year old boy. Try to think what would happen if Hill spouted any of his nonsense. Imagine Madame Secretary calling Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Trump later Tweeted:

“I find it offensive that Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be Native American to get in Harvard.”

Personally, I’d take “Goofy” over “Pocahontas” any day, as Jenna Johnson reported in the Washington Post. A Native American journalist, who called Trump’s remarks offensive, said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous in this day and age that we’re recognized as high cheekbones, the stereotypes of what you would see in ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Robertson said, referencing the 1990 movie. “Pocahontas — it’s so overdone. Like, come on. We’re living in a day and age now where that whole image and the romanticism around it and her portrayal — really it wasn’t a good story if you look at the history of Pocahontas.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/05/26/donald-trump-gets-called-out-for-calling-elizabeth-warren-pocahontas/

No, the story of a Native woman who was captured by English sailors and used as a pawn to broker peace for the Jamestown Settlement, was later converted to Christianity and married to John Rolfe (even though she had already married a Native Pamunkey man named Kocoum), moved to Henrico, VA, and died from tuberculosis or pneumonia she contracted after visiting England at the age of 22 is not a good story.

Another sign I pass frequently in my travels around Charlottesville is the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis, President Thomas Jefferson’s personal Secretary and later leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – a little tour de force that relied heavily on another kidnapped Native woman named Sacagawea. It’s almost ironic that Lewis’ first duty for TJ was privately screening officers in the Army with a code he wrote next to their names. He was a trusted neighbor who was born about ten miles from Monticello, right down the street from me, and after a bitter political fight between the Federalists and the Republicans, President Jefferson needed to know who was on his side! From Monticello’s website:

The roster of all commissioned officers, dated July 24, 1801, that was supplied to Jefferson featured curious symbols beside each officer’s name. Historians have identified an accompanying key that gives a meaning to each symbol as being written in the hand of Meriwether Lewis. From this it has been concluded that one of Lewis’ first duties was to assist Jefferson in determining the worthiness or unworthiness of officers, and in some instances their political leanings as well.

So secrecy and intrigue are not new to the political machinations of our fair country. I can only hope that Trump might trip himself up eventually, and say something he cannot walk back. Something, anything indefensible. Or maybe he’ll laugh like John Dean?

We chose Misty Gray for our basement. You can barely see our ghostly, gray mountains this morning, but the sun is OUT and the view from our basement under the deck isn’t half bad. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend folks, and try not to trip and fall into your local ER!


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Two of my favorite things collided at the Jefferson Library, literature and politics. Andrew Burstein introduced his book, “Democracy’s Muse,” to his audience and its most interesting paradox; how can the Right and the Left lay claim to our city’s most cherished President? The answer is, it’s complicated.                                    http://www.monticello.org/site/visit/events/book-talk-democracys-muse-andrew-burstein

But it all started out with a feeling, a “breathless feeling,” after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt read a book by Claude Bowers. The now famous book, published in 1925 and titled “Jefferson and Hamilton, the Struggle for Democracy,” clarified for FDR his vision, his strategy for fighting the Great Depression. He began to quote TJ, and our early fight to become not just a republic separate from the British, but a Democratic Republic. Partisan politics began with our first breath, and the primal question of the role of government took center stage when the Democrats first lost the South in a “privilege or pillage” speech that asked, “Who spoke for the people and who spoke for the rich?” Sound familiar?

That Keynote Speaker at the 1928 Democratic Convention was not a politician. Claude Bower, author, newspaper editorial writer, historian delivered these words:

 You cannot believe with Lincoln that the principles of Jefferson are “the definitions and the axioms of a free society,” and with Hamilton that they are the definitions of anarchy.

You cannot believe with Lincoln in a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” and with Hamilton in a government of the wealthy, by the influential and for the powerful.

After all, the Republicans had Lincoln, and so the Democrats anointed Jefferson. FDR’s Chief of Staff, Edwin Watson, in fact lived at Kenwood, next door to Monticello. The very building we were standing in yesterday, was where FDR waited to hear about the invasion of Normandy. Yes, I get goosebumps just thinking about that.

But eventually Ronald Reagan coopted Jefferson as the GOP’s own, claiming TJ was a champion for small government. And of course if you say it enough, half the country will believe it. And before you know it, Newt Gingrich was quoting the Charlottesville bard to illustrate his own “Contract With America.”

Returning home last night, Bob reminded me to check out the Google doodle. It was about another influential writer and newspaper reporter. I always called my foster mother, Nell Mahon “Nellie Bly,” it was her nickname and yesterday I found out who the original Nellie really was – a pioneering investigative reporter! At the ripe old age of 20, Nellie actually got herself admitted into a notorious insane asylum for 10 days in order to expose the inhumane treatment of patients. And to cap that off, she reported on her journey around the world in 72 days! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/05/nellie-bly-google-doodle_n_7210966.html

I was totally exhausted after one day tracing Nellie’s journey and the ideas that shaped our country, and our political partisanship. Today I think I’ll return to gardening, something TJ would certainly approve.

The Jefferson Library

The Jefferson Library

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IMG_0787Yesterday we got up early to wish our country a happy birthday. Like we’ve done so many times before, we headed up the mountain to Mr Jefferson’s home for the 52nd Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello. http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/nearly-citizens-naturalized-at-monticello/article_33d59e48-03f4-11e4-af9a-0017a43b2370.html

Thousands always gather to watch our newest citizens swear an oath of allegiance to these United States; red and blue, right and left unite in our collective pride for once. And as Iraq was dissolving into tribal warfare, trying desperately to sustain its very early gestational stage of freedom, I thought about the bigger picture. How we didn’t achieve true independence in 1776, well not ALL of us did, IMG_0792

We had to fight our own bloody Civil War and then survive the tumultuous 60s, and we are still voting one state at a time for marriage equality in 2014.

And while the keynote speaker, David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group, read an amusing email he received from TJ himself, it was his list of famous immigrants that caught my attention; Albert Einstein, YoYoMa, Kissinger, Madeline Albright, etc and I couldn’t help but think about the buses of women and children that have faced angry mobs in California, and the refugee camps we’ve set up along border states.    IMG_0797

Still, what other country our size manages to allow and contain so much dissent, along with a free press? How will history tell this American immigration story? It turns out Mr Rubenstein graduated the same year as Bob from Duke University. I asked Bob if he thought he’d been a frat boy in 1970. The Yearbook that year was divided in two, one for the Greeks and one for the Geeks (Hippies).

And as I stood there with my little flag and my hand in its splint, I thought about the Supreme’s latest Hobby Lobby ruling. In 1967 when I was in college, doctors were not allowed to write prescriptions for that newfangled birth control pill if you were unmarried. And today, your boss can determine your reproductive destiny because SCOTUS has ruled in favor of corporations over women. And it has once again softened the line between church and state, and we know what Mr Jefferson would say about that! IMG_0783

http://classroom.monticello.org/teachers/resources/profile/6/Jefferson-and-the-Declaration-of-Independence/   ps why do I always look like some botched plastic surgery victim?


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We always stay put on the 4th of July weekend. One reason is because the new residents have just started their intern year and need supervising. This has been true for centuries, if not for most of our marriage. The new doctors have to learn how to write a prescription, or maybe today how to email it to a pharmacy. They need to know the complex ins and outs of  digital, medical-coding and record keeping. They need to learn when to admit a patient to the hospital, and how. And what to do when said patient refuses admission and walks out – against medical advice. In other words, all the stuff they didn’t learn in medical school…they have to learn this in the month of July. Which is why you should try to avoid a teaching hospital’s ER in July.

The other reason we stick around on this holiday weekend is because I won’t drive anywhere. Because back in 1949, after my Father had died of a brain tumor in April, the Flapper went for a ride to see the new Wilkes Barre airport. That 4th of July weekend she had her legs crushed and nearly died when a drunk driver hit our car. My Nana and sister Kay were both in a coma, and my brother Jim was sent off to camp with broken ribs. After that trip to the ER, I was 10 months old and ended up with a foster family.

This year, though Bob is working the weekend, he’s off on the 4th so that we can attend Monticello’s Naturalization Ceremony. It’s become a tradition since we moved to Central Virginia, to hike up Mr Jefferson’s mountain and watch and weep while newly minted citizens pledge to honor and defend their new country; more than 3,000 immigrants have raised their right hands since 1963.

Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country’s foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual’s ability to change the face of the world — it’s easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, “So what if I’ve never designed a building before? If I want to, I will.”
from Sam Waterston’s remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007

Monticello Fourth 023FB

“Cheekiness,” I like that! We missed the year that George W Bush was the speaker, I don’t know why?

But we’ve heard actors and artists galore rave about these United States of America. https://mountainmornings.net/2011/07/02/yearning-to-breathe-free/ This year our local boy, Dave Matthews will be the keynote speaker. I used to see him working out all the time at our sport’s club (kind of like when I worked out next to the Boss in Shrewsbury). Star struck old lady on a stationary bike. It’s a bit more organized now since we first started our trek nearly 10 years ago. Now you must actually purchase a ticket, and you have to be bussed up to the old house.

I read somewhere that a woman who was taking the oath of citizenship, refused to say she would take up arms for her newly adopted country. http://rt.com/usa/doughty-atheist-citizenship-arms-012/ This created an uproar since she is not religious, but feels as a person of conscience she would not kill anyone. It seems the powers that be wanted her to get it (her pacifism) in writing from a church, before they would allow her to become a US citizen…only the Catch 22 is that she doesn’t belong to any church…Are we surprised that happened in Texas? Obviously a glitch in the naturalization process, since I’m sure Mr Jefferson would agree with her!

The wedding took place one mountain over from Monticello, 3 years ago, where Mr Jefferson grew his grapes and fruit trees. We were pretty cheeky!

J&M  0891


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What are the qualities of leadership? Are true leaders born, or are they made? I was listening intently to Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham at Monticello this past weekend. He was launching his latest 500 page book, “Thomas Jefferson the Art of Power.” The third President, I learned, was a master at seduction. He had dinner parties at his home here in Charlottesville, and at the nation’s new White House; however he would invite only members of the same party. He didn’t like argument in his private life, but in this way he made friends of his political enemies – maybe the first colonial frenemies? Jefferson was the master of mutual concessions; he managed to win over Federalists by the pure force of his personality. He knew how to build compromise and encourage coalitions. In fact, Meacham likened him to Bill Clinton. One of very few presidents who could not only maneuver politically, but could govern while also thinking philosophically.

“…but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principles. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.”

Who does that remind you of? We are not blue states and red states? Always paranoid about the British returning, which of course they did, Jefferson practiced the politics of optimism. And optimism, I believe, is something you are born with. He knew that politics is inherently contentious, yet he dared to depart from the dogma of his party. Is there one Republican member of the house today who might dare vote to increase taxes?

The Greek tragedy of General David Petraeus’ resignation was unfolding while we listened to Meacham, and to his credit, he never mentioned it. But I couldn’t help think of the juxtaposition; how Jefferson’s legacy has been tainted by his relationship with the enslaved Sally Hemings. Petraeus’ reputation, some might say, was a great veil that the Pentagon wanted to protect because we Americans like to think he helped to “win” the war in Iraq. However, after reading this Atlantic article, titled “General Failure” by Thomas E Hicks,
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/general-failure/309148/ …we learn how widespread the failure in our military leadership truly is, and why those two wars (one that was sold to us by lying about nuclear weapons) were doomed from the start. Hicks barely mentions Petraeus, only to say he came in near the end and helped to arm the Iraqi army, thereby inciting more civil war. The General who threw it all away over a woman 20 years his junior, it turns out, was flawed like the rest of us.

Meacham said of Jefferson, “If flawed people can do the good work he did, then maybe we can too.”

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Have you ever been to any of the World Heritage Sites? The first time I heard of them was on my first ancestral homeland trip to Ireland. My Great Great Grandparents came from County Mayo, so while visiting the Lynn cousins and taking in all the brightly marked sheep, Bob and I trekked up to Ceide (pronounced CAY-ja) which means a flat land on top of a mountain. “It is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance, which has changed our perception of our Stone Age ancestors. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat.” http://www.museumsofmayo.com/ceide.htm I loved how barren it seemed, and windswept. I could imagine the female pirate queen, Gráinne Ní Mháille (c. 1530 – c. 1603 aka Grace O’Malley) surveying her land and setting sail from this wild side of the island.

Imagine my delight to learn that my very own newly adopted city, Charlottesville, VA and Jefferson’s magnificent Monticello have been deemed one of the 10 top World Wonders by National Geographic! http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-wonders-traveler-photos/#/world-wonders-monticello_54484_600x450.jpg
We already knew that Monticello was a World Heritage Site, and now we feel doubly blessed by UNESCO and National Geographic! Can you name the other 7 sites in the US of A? A Hint – we passed by this famous statue on the Bride’s Bat Mitzvah boat…

And the most wonderful sight of all? Meeting my baby boy 28 years ago today. Gladiolas were in bloom and his big sister was waiting patiently to welcome him home to our house on the edge of a bird sanctuary. Happy Birthday to the Rocker, the boy who could run before he could walk. I am so very proud of the man you have become.

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Happy, snowy President’s Day everyone. This weekend we avoided big box store sales and headed up the mountain to our very own Monticello. Even if we didn’t live here, I’d have to count Mr Jefferson as one of my very favorite presidents. His writing, his architecture, his grandchildren! We met cousins Anita and Skip for an author’s book launch lecture, “Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Victoria’s England,” by Ann Lucas Birle.

Ellen Wayles Coolidge was a favorite granddaughter. She was schooled alongside TJ at Monticello by her Mother in all the classics that young men would learn in the early 19th Century. Her retired Grandfather would hum Scottish tunes while he worked and always made time for little Ellen; calling to her, asking how many thousands of things she must have to talk to him about. She didn’t marry until she was 27, almost ancient for a bride at the time, and most likely because she was not only brilliant and charming, she was extremely witty. I imagine a young suitor may have been intimidated by her presence, along with the requisite entrance into the Great Hall in order to meet the President, her Grandfather. The not so young Mrs Coolidge managed to have 6 children in 5 years (there was a set of twins) and if ever there was a reason for contraception, Mr Santorum, just read some history!

If she lived today, she’d be a blogger! She wrote almost daily in her “fully indexed” travel diary from 1838 to 1839 and as a result, we can now read about her first trip to England. Ellen Coolidge’s health was failing after such rapid-fire childbirth, and so the trip was planned to restore her body, mind and spirit. Her writing is fiercely personal, but with lightening flashes of divine satire. It’s as if Edith Wharton met Jon Stewart. She writes of the Coronation, the Tower, of art and the great English writers she meets. And about Thomas Jefferson she says:

“My grandfather can never be a favorite of the few, being himself the friend of the many. There is a perpetual opposition between the rich and the poor which makes an advocate for the one always appear an opponent of the other; but this is temporary; posterity, although divided into the same classes, judges with less ‘esprit de corps’ the actions of past times and tardy justice is done….”

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