A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

About Time

I watched a wonderful pbs documentary on John Adams last night, part of the American Experience series, and near the end of the show it emphasized Adam's concern that his huge contributions to the establishment of the country would be lost to posterity. And for far too long, that worry was prescient, as history has emphasized the contributions of Washington and Jefferson, while treating Adams as a bit of an after thought. Case in point are the monuments in our capitol city.

Washington got one, plus a whole city (state, too, for that matter) named for him. Fair enough, he was the pivotal figure of the American Revolution. There very likely wouldn't be a United States of America without George. Jefferson got one, and that's okay too-- Jefferson was the wordsmith that helped shape what America would become with the Declaration of Independence, and his presidency included the doubling of the country. Hamilton gets the $10 bill, which is appropriate since we likely would've strangled under the heavy debt created by the War of the Revolution if not for his plan to establish a national bank/currency. Franklin gets the $100 bill, which is probably not enough given how prominent a figure he was during Revolutionary times, but now, 200+ years later, you do hear how "it's all about the Benjamins."

Besides Washington and Jefferson, seven other presidents have statues and/or monuments of some sort in Washington, D.C. Sure, Lincoln is easy, and maybe you'd get FDR as well, but the other five? Take your best guess then check the comments section and see how you did.

John Adams, however, who was on a par with Jefferson and Franklin and only a small notch below Washington in terms of his claims to being a Founding Father, has gotten pretty much bupkis. No formal recognition in D.C., no currency with his profile on it, no universities (at least James Madison, another major figure in the founding of the U.S., albeit one that joined a bit after the Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams cadre, got a university). A few counties here or there.

Thankfully, there is an ongoing effort to get a monument to the entire Adam's family, John, Abilgail and John Quincy, erected in D.C. In 2001, President Bush signed the okey dokey to acquire land on or near the Mall in D.C., and since that time various groups having been raising money to make the monument a reality. Additionally, the old Suffolk County Courthouse was lavishly refurbished in 2002 and renamed the John Adams Courthouse.

So, things are turning around for the fiery old man from Quincy who, in many ways, embodied the best of what America has always stood for-- ambition, honor, independence, devotion, frugality, and staunch defense of the rule of law and the rights of individuals.

Oh, and one of the crowning illustrations of how life is often much unlikely than fiction, I still find it truly amazing that BOTH Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the DAY from the founding of the country. If a scriptwriter wrote something like that into a movie or TV series, people would role their eyes and think, "Right, THAT would happen. Give me a break."

In this case, however, no break is necessary-- it really did happen.


The other five presidents:

Teddy Roosevelt has a Memorial Island in D.C. Andrew Jackson has a statue. James Buchanan also has a statue. Ulysses S. Grant has a Memorial. And LBJ has a grove of trees located within Lady Bird Johnson Park.

So, if you said Roosevelt, Jackson, Grant, Buchanan and Johnson without peeking or using google... well, you really need to get a life, because nobody should know that without looking it up.
I saw that same show about John Adams. Honestly I didn't know anything about the guy until I watched it. Other than the obvious he was a president. Supposedly the book by Dave McClough, I think that his the name, is very good. I think he was actually one of the speakers. I found the show very interesting. I agree with you as well.
Thanks for reminding me Rothbone, and welcome. Yes, the book by McCullough on Adams is excellent. Very deserving of the praise that has been heaped upon it.
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