….About the Fourth of July…by Robert J. Ahola

I’m lousy at politics and even worse with history. But a friend of mine who is an author and movie producer, Robert Ahola (also happens to be an old rugby buddy of mine for 20 years) wrote this about the Fourth of July. I thought it was so eloquent that it was worth passing on:

It struck me once again as we enjoy this Fourth of July holiday that, if we’d had electronic media back in the late 18th Century, neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams would have ever been elected President of the United States.

Although a brilliant writer, a consummate architect and a bona fide Renaissance man, Jefferson (at 6’ 3”) was a clumsy, dawdling speaker and highly uncomfortable in crowds. Adams (5’ 6”) though a gifted orator, was a snarling terrier of a fellow who couldn’t seem to get along with anyone. He was pocked, defiantly unkempt, and could often be abrasive as nails on a blackboard. (In fact, in the beginning, the two did not like each other very much.)

Jefferson, infamously, was a slave owner who disapproved of it in principle but nonetheless owned over 200 slaves. Adams abhorred slavery and thought it should be abolished. And yet it was Jefferson who actually passed legislation to abolish the slave trade while in office (by the Abolition of the Importation of Slaves in 1807).  They both were merely men of their time and, as such, flawed. And yet both just happened to have impeccable portfolios, genius IQs and an unmatched vision for this country. They, along with Benjamin Franklin, pooled their efforts to draft the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson wrote it.) They, along with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, helped frame the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (Inspired by Jefferson and penned by Madison).

They lived in an era that prized substance over style, and were baptized in the fire of awareness that Democracy took constant vigilance to make succeed—and that it would always be a work in progress

I make this observation in celebration of our nation—neither to praise nor condemn anyone—but merely to admonish us to be mindful of electing those to public office only after digging deeply into the soul of the man or woman and looking beyond the artifice of personality and the easy path that leads us to the politics of division.

In the end, character trumps all. A hard lesson that We The People have, over the last 30 years or so, learned the hard way. Characteristic of their strong personalities, Jefferson and Adams, though they often feuded, reunited in their friendship in their final years and devoted many days in warm correspondence, the letters of which remain with us to this day.

In a poignant bit of divine irony, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passed from this mortal shell on the same day in the same year: July 4, 1826.

Adams, in his final words, fatalistically noted: “At least we still have Jefferson!” Unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had died four hours earlier in Monticello.




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