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Category Archives: Culture

What qualities make a nation admirable?

So, ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what country on earth would you rather live? – Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.
Autobiography, 1821
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 101

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders appreciate kind people.
Thirty two years after Jefferson left France as ambassador, never to return, he still retained his great fondness for that land and its people. While his unquestionable loyalty was to his own country, he stated the reasons for his French affections in the text that precedes this excerpt, summarized here:

– The people were kind.
– They were warm and devoted in their close friendships.
– They were accommodating to strangers.
– The hospitality of Paris was beyond imagining.
– They were eminent in science.
– Their scientific men were well-mannered, comfortable and animated in conversation, and gave “a charm to their society.”

Those qualities would make any nation admirable.

“… what a magnificent and delightful job you did as Thomas Jefferson
in our substantive program …”
Chairman, Substantive Program for the Judicial Conference, U. S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, Point Clear, AL

Thomas Jefferson can even impress lawyers!
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What would “Miss Manners” think?

With respect to what are termed polite manners … I would wish my countrymen to adopt just so much of European politeness, as to be ready to make all those little sacrifices of self, which really render European manners amiable, and relieve society from the disagreeable scenes to which rudeness often subjects it. Here, it seems that a man might pass a life without encountering a single rudeness. In the pleasures of the table they are far before us, because, with good taste they unite temperance. They do not terminate the most sociable meals by transforming themselves into brutes. I have never yet seen a man drunk in France, even among the lowest of the people.
To Mr. Bellini, September 30, 1785

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Consensus-seeking leaders value the essential skill of politeness.
Jefferson wrote from Paris to a Virginia emigrant and language professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. He shared first impressions with a former European. While he praised their arts and a few of their books, he found them wanting in most other disciplines: government, science, morality, and a “swarm of nonsensical publications.”
He was complimentary though, of their politeness. Jefferson greatly valued cordiality! Note the qualities he appreciated:

1. Europeans made “all those little sacrifices of self” so necessary for just getting along. People didn’t insist on their own ways, and public conflict was minimized.
2. The dining table, Jefferson’s favorite place for mixing it up with others, combined good taste with limited alcohol. Meals ended on a friendly basis, not a drunken one.
3. He experienced no public drunkenness. Jefferson valued self-control and public propriety.

Mr. Jefferson will encourage your audience toward an essential social skill, politeness.
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Is Christmas Day any different?

A dislocation of my right wrist has for upwards of three months prevented me the honor of writing to you. I begin to use it a little for the pen, but it is with great pain.
To Charles William Frederick Dumas, 46,  Paris, Dec. 25, 1786

I am full of plans of emploiment when I get there. They chiefly respect the active functions of the body. To the mind I shall administer amusement chiefly. An only daughter and a numerous family of grandchildren will furnish me great resources of happiness.
To Charles Thompson, 58,  Washington, Dec. 25, 1808

I inclose you a copy of it, however, in the handwriting of one of my granddaughters for my dislocated wrist is failing to …
To Joseph C. Cabell, 33, Monticello, Dec. 25, 1820

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What do these three excerpts spanning 34 years have to do with Christmas? Absolutely nothing. But all three were written on Christmas day. As nearly as I can discern from handwritten copies, none refer to the Christian holiday.
One web site displays 71 letters dated December 25 among a collection of Thomas Jefferson’s papers, the vast majority written by Jefferson to others. I picked excerpts from the earliest one listed in 1786, one in-between, 1808, and one of the latter ones, from 1820.
I suspect a perusal of all his letters of that date would reveal little or no mention of Christmas. Although Jefferson confessed a strong preference for the moral teachings of Jesus, he did not regard Jesus as divine. As such, the Christian holiday marking Jesus’ birth would have had no significance for Jefferson. December 25 was just another day to him.
The first letter, written when Jefferson was minister to France, details some commercial and financial issues relative to the U.S. The dislocated wrist resulted from a fall he took as he escorted Maria Conway around Paris.
The second letter describes Jefferson’s much-anticipated retirement from public life.
The third appears to deal with issues related to the University of Virginia. He needed a granddaughter’s help to copy and forward some necessary documents. That pesky wrist again …
Not a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in the bunch!

Thomas Jefferson can speak to your audience on religious liberty!
About Christmas Day, not so much.

Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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Traveling abroad summary: Is this just a guide … or much more?

General Observations … Objects of attention for an American …
[See the previous six posts, from October 29 – November 9]
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788
From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders draw all the wisdom they can from new experiences.
This series of seven posts is NOT just a travel guide. (Nor does it draw from an old group tour joke, “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.”) This single letter contains much wisdom. Look at the parts. What wisdom can you apply to your life, your employment, your explorations, your government?
Part 1: Get an overview first
Inquiring leaders first seek an overview of a new issue.
Part 2: What to see? What NOT to see?
Wise leaders neither expose themselves to too little of what’s new, nor too much.
Part 3: If it’s expensive, does that make it good?
Shrewd leaders know how to recognize fraudulent practices and scheming people.
Part 4: Be alert to quality vs. quantity
Discerning leaders recognize when they are being weighed down with trivia and the motivation of those who do so.
Part 5: How can America (or others) benefit from what you learn?
The discerning leader accurately assesses benefits and hazards from others’ ways of life.
Part 6: Do the politics help … or hinder the people?
Compassionate leaders study the effects of government on the people.
Part 7, Summary: Is this just a how-to … or something more?

Careful leaders draw all the wisdom they can from new experiences.

Let Mr. Jefferson bring 19th wisdom to your 21st century audience!
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Traveling abroad, Part 6: Do the politics help … or hinder the people?

Examine their [politics’] influence on the happiness of the people. Take every possible occasion for entering the houses of the laborers, and especially at moments of their repast [meals]; see what they eat, how they are clothed, whether they are obliged to work too hard; whether their government or their landlord takes from them an unjust proportion of their labor; on what footing stands the property the call their own, their personal liberty, etc., etc.
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788
From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders study the effects of government on the people.
We return to one of the eight areas an American visitor should study in other countries and look at it in detail. Next to agriculture, this might have held the highest priority.
1. Do the politics of a country make people happy or unhappy?
2. Do the people have adequate housing?
3. Do they have enough decent food to eat?
4. Are they properly clothed?
5. Do they have to work too many hours just to survive?
6. Do their leaders (macro-government) or their landlords (micro-government) take too much from them?
7. Do the people hold their property and liberty as natural rights or as favors of the government?

Invite Mr. Jefferson to share his leadership experiences with your audience!
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Traveling abroad, Part 5: How can America benefit from what you learn?

Objects of attention for an American.-
1. Agriculture. Everything belonging to this art … Useful or agreeable animals which might be transported to America. Species of plants … according the climate of the different States.
2. Mechanical arts … necessary in America, and inconvenient to be transported  …  forges, stone quarries, boats, bridges, (very especially,) etc., etc.
3. Lighter mechanical arts, and manufactures … a waste of attention to examine them minutely.
4. Gardens …
5. Architecture … among the most important arts …
6. Painting. Statuary … Too expensive … for us … They are worthy seeing but not studying.
7. Politics of each country … Examine their influence on the happiness of the people …
8. Courts … under the most imposing exterior, they are the weakest and worst part of mankind …
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788
From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The discerning leader accurately assesses benefits and hazards from others’ ways of life.
Jefferson’s recommendations:

#1. His primary interest was farming, so it’s natural he put all-things-agriculture first.
# 2 & 3 Manufacturing was important only if we needed it and couldn’t make it for ourselves. He had no interest in copying the manufactures of Europe. Let America produce raw goods and trade them for their finished ones.
# 4, 5 & 6 Practical culture was important for improving the tastes of his countrymen.
# 7 & 8 Government. Ah, yes. Do the politics help or hinder the people? Are the courts just? He likened the courts to the Tower of London or the zoo in Versailles, very imposing but everyone inside was a captive.

Thomas Jefferson’s experience holds benefit for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Traveling abroad, Part 4: Be alert to quality vs. quantity

Take care particularly not to let the porters [“a person stationed at a door or gate to admit or assist those entering,” Webster’s 7th New Collegiate) of churches, cabinets, [government offices] etc., lead you through all the little details of their profession, which will load the memory with trifles, fatigue the attention, and waste that and your time. It is difficult to confine these people to the few objects worth seeing and remembering. They wish for your money, and suppose you give it more willingly the more they detail you.
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788

From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Discerning leaders recognize when they are being weighed down with trivia and the motivation of those who do so.
This section might be subtitled, “TMI” (from the younger generation, meaning too much information). But too much information has always been a problem. It wearies you, wastes your time, and clogs your brain with worthless stuff.
And who are the purveyors of TMI? Those who seek to profit from you, hoping you will mistake quantity for quality, and pay acccordingly.
Who weighs you down with TMI, for their gain?

No TMI from Mr. Jefferson! Only just what your audience needs.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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Traveling abroad, Part 3: If it’s expensive, does that make it better?

When one calls in the taverns for vin du pays [country wine], they give what is natural, unadulterated and cheap; when vin etrangere [foreign wine] is called for, it only gives the pretext for charging an extravagant price for an unwholesome stuff, very often of their own brewery. The people you will naturally see the most of will be tavern keepers, valets de place [guides for strangers] and postilions [horse-mounted guides accompanying carriages]. These are the hackneyed [hired] rascals of every country. Of course they must not be considered when we calculate the national character.
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788
From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Shrewd leaders know how to recognize fraudulent practices and scheming people.
Jefferson cared nothing about pretense, such as being too sophisticated to try the local fare or trying to impress by ordering non-local wine. Such snobbery resulted only in being overcharged, underserved and swindled.
He also knew that the people you would “naturally see the most of” would be undesirables and people seeking to profit from unsuspecting tourists. He warned not only to be alert to such folks but also not to judge the entire nation by them.

Mr. Jefferson will alert your audience to frauds and schemers!
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Traveling abroad, Part 2: What to see? What NOT to see?

When you are doubting whether a thing is worth the trouble of going to see, recollect that you will never again be so near it, that you may repent [regret] the not having seen it, but can never repent having seen it. But there is an opposite extreme too, that is, the seeing too much. A judicious selection is to be aimed at, taking care that the indolence [sloth] of the moment have no influence in the decision.
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788
From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders neither expose themselves to too little of what’s new, nor too much.
The map, guidebook and view from on high recommended in the first post in this series now come in to practical play. It is impossible to see everything, so how do you decide? You may never been here again. Here’s Jefferson’s test:
1. If you don’t see it, will you regret it?
2. If you do see it, you can never regret passing it by.
3. You can see TOO much, weighing yourself down with trifles or wearing yourself out.
4. Be wise in your choices but don’t be lazy. Your purpose is to learn.

Thomas Jefferson has thoughts on what’s worthwhile. And what’s not.
Invite him to share those ideas with your audience! Call 573-657-2739

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Traveling abroad, Part 1: Get an overview first

General Observations – On arriving at a town, the first thing to do is to buy the plan [map] of the town, and the book noting its curiosities. Walk around the ramparts [higher elevations] when there are any, go to the top of a steeple to have a view of the town and its environs.
Travelling Notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen, June 3, 1788

From Koch and Peden’s Selected Writings, P. 137-9

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Inquiring leaders first seek an overview of a new issue.
Jefferson gave advice to two men on how to travel and what to see in other countries. The letter is divided into General Observations and Objects of attention for an American. I will excerpt all of this letter in the next few posts.
As you read these posts, keep in mind that Jefferson was never purposeless. He was always observing, inquiring, learning. He never would have traveled someplace new just on a whim or for personal pleasure only. He might do something for enjoyment or health, but always with this larger purpose in mind: What can I learn? How can what I learn benefit others? That was his motivation in writing this letter. He wanted the recipients to be learners, too, not only for their own sakes, but for the benefit of their country.
This opening paragraph explains what to do first in a new town. Don’t just jump in. Get a map. Get a guidebook. Get a broader or higher view of the place than just what you can observe at eye level. See how the city fits into the surrounding countryside.
There’s a bigger lesson here: When you take on something completely new or foreign, first get an overall view or understanding of the matter. Only then will you be ready to explore it in more detail.

Let Thomas Jefferson give your audience a grand overview!
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