Lessons From Thomas Jefferson
A True Story
on Mar 6, 2020
You know what? It dawned on me that the best inventions of the 20th century came from the United States: cars, radios, cameras, computers, internet, telephones, television, aeroplanes and the atom bombs. And even though the former Soviet Union was the first nation to send a man to space, the United States can take pride in being the only country that has ever landed a man on the Moon.
The United States owes its success to the visionary leadership provided by its founding fathers when they established the country in the late 18th century. By coming up with laws and a system of government that allowed men to live in freedom, the founding fathers created an environment that encouraged creativity. That's why the best inventions of the 20th century came from the United States.
Those founding fathers of the United States were men of great learning and understanding. Among them was Thomas Jefferson who I shall talk about today in this story.
Born in 1743, Thomas Jefferson helped shape the course of the United States more than any other founding father did. He drafted America's Declaration of Independence that has made United States the envy of the world. He also authored a statute of his state of Virginia for religious freedom at a time when people were being persecuted in Europe for their beliefs.
Thomas Jefferson went on to serve his country diligently in different capacities. He became the Governor of Virginia, the Secretary of State, the Vice-President and eventually the President of the United States. Seeming not to have been corrupted by power, he only served for two terms as president and then retired back to his home in Virginia.
As President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson purchased huge tracts of land that doubled the size of his country. He also sent men to explore the western parts of America that had hitherto been unoccupied. Without those two visionary moves by Jefferson, the United States would not have become the superpower that it is today.
Besides being a politician, Thomas Jefferson was talented in other fields too. He was a lawyer, a farmer, a diplomat, a scientist, a musician and an architect. Thanks to his prowess in Science and farming, he invented a plough that made cultivation of crops easier. He must have been an accomplished linguist too, for he was fluent not only in English but also in Greek, Latin and French.
Perhaps because he believed in the power of education to transform lives, Thomas Jefferson devoted the last years of his life to the founding of the University of Virginia. He used his skills as an architect to design the layout of buildings for the university. And the University of Virginia has grown to be one of the best institutions of higher learning in America.
Truly, Thomas Jefferson was a multi-talented man. That's why President John F. Kennedy, while addressing a White House dinner for Nobel Laureates on one evening in 1962, said, "The most extraordinary collection of talent ... that has ever gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Despite his many distinguished accomplishments, Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered only for three of his achievements. So he left a will that the following epitaph be engraved on his tombstone:
On reading about the life of Thomas Jefferson, I have been able to glean two of his character traits that made him eminently successful and a towering figure in the history of the United States. The first was his hard-working nature. Jefferson was a voracious reader and a prolific writer. A typical day for him started early. He told of a fifty-year period in which the Sun had never caught him in bed.
Here was buried Thomas Jefferson,
Author of the Declaration of Independence,
Of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom,
And Father of the University of Virginia.
The second trait was his relentless curiosity. Jefferson had a desire to know and understand the world around him. That relentless curiosity made him an inventor and a keen observer of the weather. It also fuelled his passion for reading. He once said that he could not live without books.
All said, Thomas Jefferson was a great man. His life is worthy of study for anyone who craves to understand the genesis of greatness. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on lessons from Thomas Jefferson, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometime back on "Lessons From Ronald Reagan". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A True Story
on Feb 26, 2020
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of my life, let me inform you that I was forcefully hospitalized in 2008 when I was at the university in JKUAT and again in 2011 when I was at the University of Nairobi (UoN). The reason for my admission to hospital was because of going astray, something I have explained in detail in some of my previous stories on this blog. I am sure my father sympathized with me in those two instances as he watched guards subdue me and force me to lie down on a bed so that I could be injected with a drug that drove me to sleep. They were such dramatic scenes.
Sometime in 2011 or 2012 (can't recall the exact year), I contemplated suing JKUAT and UoN for having forcefully admitted me to hospital - experiences that made me gain weight and lose enthusiasm for living. I thought if I could take those two universities to court and win my case, I could end up being paid huge sums of money which could help solve some of my financial problems.
Encouraged by that thought of being awarded money, I began to take steps of suing the universities. I approached a high school classmate of mine named Lawrence Sikuku, who was then pursuing Medicine & Surgery at UoN, and requested him to lend me a decent suit for wearing during court cases so that people would know I was a respectable person, and not just a fool from the village. Lawrence replied to me that he didn't have a suit he could lend me and went on to say that he was surviving on a few clothes in his wardrobe.
Around that time I approached Lawrence for help, I also contacted two friends of mine who were lawyers to inquire on the way forward in suing JKUAT and UoN. One of them informed me of an organization in Nairobi that offered free legal services for poor people who have been dealt with unjustly.
I did go to the offices of the organization where I explained my situation to a lass who listened to me patiently. For reasons I can't recall, I wasn't satisfied with the steps taken by the organization on that day I first went there. So a few days later, I went again to the offices of the organization. And during that second visit, the same lass who had handled me a few days before referred me to another organization. That made me give up on my ambition to take JKUAT and UoN to court.
On mature reflection, I am glad that I gave up suing the two universities I have told you about. Why? Because I am sure if my case had seen the light of day, I would have been featured in the newspapers and thus bring shame to me and my family. And I don't think I would have won the case because as I see it now, the two universities acted appropriately by taking me to hospital.
You see, it was foolish of me to stop attending classes at JKUAT in 2008 without communicating with anyone. I wonder what I would have done had I ran out of money while hanging around the university. So the JKUAT authorities were wise to take hold of me and take me to hospital. Same case with the UoN authorities.
And that brings me to the point I am trying to make: that I behaved immaturely not only in those two instances in 2008 and 2011 when I went astray at JKUAT and UoN but also in numerous other occasions over the past twelve years. And I behaved immaturely in spite of having been a grown-up.
Like in 2011, a few months after I was discharged from UoN clinic, I became unreasonably mad with the world after my family and several friends of mine failed to send me money for producing a song that I had plagiarized from a Catholic hymn. Imagine I ran away from home and sent people messages at night that I was going to commit suicide. The ploy didn't work because nobody came to my aid.
These days, I am making it my ambition to conduct myself with maturity by minding my own business, by listening to criticism with an open mind, by not overreacting to minor provocations, by not permitting other people's weaknesses to disturb my peace of mind and by trying to discern a lesson in every setback. Recently when going through a rather trying moment, I asked myself, "What would Jesus do if he were in my situation?" I intend to continue asking myself that question in the future during hard times. So help me God.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on maturing up, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "What Freedom Entails". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.