John F. Kennedy once described a White House reception for Nobel laureates as "the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Thomas Jefferson was a man noted not only for his great intelligence, but also as a man who believed in the rights of the people to govern themselves. As one of our nation's Founding Fathers, and as its third president, Jefferson regularly displayed both qualities.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." As a result, he supported an effective educational system and a free press. These institutions, he felt, were necessary to promote and protect the absolute democracy he so cherished. In these institutions, he envisioned the solid foundation to a well constructed society.
A society able to make informed decisions in the polling places, and in every day life.
On a free press, Jefferson once said that if he had to choose between "a government without newspapers" and "newspapers without government," he would have preferred the latter. It was his firm belief that without the free exchange of ideas promoted by a free press, citizens could not make reasonable decisions on government. On education, Jefferson felt that universal education was the first key to unlocking universal suffrage. He argued that those who were ignorant were not able to govern themselves. However, he believed that people were teachable, and would become reasonable citizens with education.
In the pinnacle of his quest for universal education, in his last great public service, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819, as an institution for modern learning. It was free from religion and...