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Category Archives: Health

Green space urban design will lessen disease.

…the yellow fever …is generated only in low close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent it’s generation by building our cities on a more open plan. take for instance the chequer board for a plan. let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf & trees. every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, & every house will front an open square. the atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans … shall be on this plan.
To Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders promote public health.
Thomas Jefferson met the French philosopher Volney (1757-1820) during his service in France. More than half of this lengthy, wide-ranging letter dealt with the ravages of yellow fever in coastal America. Jefferson fled swampy Washington for Monticello every August and September, when the disease was prominent.

Jefferson presumed the disease flourished because of crowded, unhealthy living conditions in large cities, all in the Atlantic tidewater region. To combat this, he proposed a plan for future urban expansion that would leave half of every development in green space. Using the example of a checkerboard, he suggested all squares of one color for homes, all squares of the other color to be left natural. Every house on the block would front on open space.

It would be long after Jefferson’s death before the cause of yellow fever was discovered. It wasn’t the crowded swampy atmosphere along the coast, but the mosquitoes that thrived in that environment.

“… you received the highest “quality of presenter” rating
in the conference evaluations … no keynote has ever done this before.”
Founder, Lanit Consulting/Foliotek EPIC Conference
A quality presentation awaits your audience.
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Give it to me straight!

Your letter of the 11th. was recieved and gave me the first intimation of your illness. it has filled me with anxiety respecting you, and this is increased by your not having communicated it to me. because in endeavoring to spare my feelings on your real situation it gives me the pain of fearing every thing imaginable; even that the statement of your recovery may not be exact. let me pray you always to give me the rigorous state of things that I may be sure I know the worst.
Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, January 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Should a leader prefer bad news to no news at all?
Martha’s January 11 letter to her father has disappeared, so we do not know the nature or extent of her illness. Just eight months before, her sister and Thomas Jefferson’s only other child had died. He greatly feared for Martha’s safety.

Not only had Martha’s letter filled him “with anxiety,” he feared she was trying to spare his feelings. That made his worry all the worse, even doubting her assurances about her own recovery.

He wanted to “know the worst” about his only child’s health. That was not as bad as not knowing and an imagination run amok.

“Your wonderful presentation as Daniel Boone
was well-received and appropriate to the interest of our group.”
Member Services Specialist, Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association
Mr. Jefferson’s compatriot, Daniel Boone, is wonderful, too.
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Cancer is not within the federal government’s authority.

… with respect to any application to Congress, it would be inefficient, because the Constitution allows them to give no other reward for useful discoveries but the exclusive right for 14. years: and the care of the public health is not among those [powers] given to the general government, but remains exclusively with the legislatures of the respective states …
To James Houston, February 10, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders accept limits on their authority.
In a long curious letter to the President, Houston, a 52 year old farmer described being in Philadelphia for treatment of a cancer he’d suffered from for many years. He claimed to have been mostly healed and wanted to make the doctor’s cure known publicly. The doctor refused, because the pills he compounded to treat the cancer were a major source of income. Still, for $50,000, the doctor would release the formula.

Houston had written a “pamphlet,” some lengthy, rhyming narrative of his treatment and cure, and sent a portion of it to the President. He hoped to publish and sell it to raise funds toward that $50,000 goal. He sought a patent on his pamphlet. The President acknowledged a 14 year patent “for useful discoveries,” but that did not apply to Houston’s effort. Neither was the national government authorized by the Constitution to guard public health. Under the 10th Amendment, that authority remained with the individual states.

While he could not help his petitioner, Jefferson remained gracious. He concluded his letter by congratulating Houston “on his prospect of recovery, and sincerely wishes it may be compleated.”

Two months later, Houston filed for a copyright on his pamphlet in the federal court in Philadelphia and published it with the title, “A Plan for the Ladies Fund, in the United States of America, for the Relief of Those Afflicted with Cancers.”

“Your talk was the hit of the day …
thanks for making our convention a big success.”
Central Bank
Mr. Jefferson will contribute to the success of your convention.
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Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

“a knock of the elbow,” but get the doctor, too.

Not knowing the time destined for your expected indisposition, I am anxious on your account. you are prepared to meet it with courage I hope. some female friend of your Mama’s (I forget who) used to say it was no more than a knock of the elbow. the material thing is to have scientific aid in readiness, that if any thing uncommon takes place, it may be redressed on the spot, and not be made serious by delay. it is a case which least of all will wait for Doctors to be sent for. therefore, with this single precaution, nothing is ever to be feared.
To Mary Jefferson Eppes, December 26, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders can still be anxious fathers.
Mary Eppes, known as Maria, was the President’s younger daughter. She was one of two Jefferson children who survived childhood, which had claimed four others.

The “expected indisposition” referenced was the upcoming delivery of her third child. Her first son, born in 1800, lived only a few days. Her second son, Francis, was now 27 months old. Like her mother who died of childbirth complications in 1782, Maria was not a strong, healthy woman. She had suffered considerably after the birth of her first two children.

Very rarely did Jefferson refer to his long deceased wife Martha, but he did so here. No doubt wanting to lesson Maria’s anxiety, and probably his own, he relayed a comment of a friend of his wife’s that childbirth “was no more than a knock of the elbow.” Even so, he urged his daughter “to have scientific aid in readiness,” i.e. a doctor. The onset of labor would provide time to summon the doctor so any help could be rendered immediately. A knock or not, with this precaution, Maria had nothing to fear.

Time would tell that both daughter and father had plenty to fear.

“Your presentation that night, your smooth ability …
was just uncanny.”
President, Centralia Historical Society
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Family & health come first, before leadership!

Having understood that you have been unwell, & that your family is still so, I have not asked your attendance here, lest these circumstances should stand in the way. Mr. Madison, Dearborne & Gallatin are here & mr Lincoln expected tomorrow … should your own health or that of your family not render it inconvenient we should be very happy to see you on Monday & to recieve your aid at a meeting which I propose for Tuesday next. but this is not meant to be pressed against considerations of health or of family distress.
To Robert Smith, September 30, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders are sensitive to the difficulties of their associates.
Smith (1757-1842) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Navy. As a member of the Cabinet, his attendance was needed very soon. All the other cabinet members would arrive in Washington City the following day. In addition to other business to bring before Congress, they faced the critical issue of the constitutional amendment needed to authorize the purchase of Louisiana. Prompt action from a united front was critical.

Yet, both Smith and his family were ill. While the President greatly hoped for his Secretary’s attendance and help at the Cabinet meeting four days hence, he stressed that Smith’s health and family came first.

“Mr. Lee has the ability to successfully BE
the personage he is impersonating.”
Director of Entertainment, Delta Queen Steamboat Company
Patrick Lee will BECOME Thomas Jefferson for your audience.
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For those less fortunate than myself …

I pray you to recieve & apply the within sum of one hundred dollars to the use of those among you afflicted with the present sickness, who may be in need of it. I further request that no acknolegement may be made of it in the public papers, nor otherwise in any manner. I offer my best wishes for the reestablishment of the health of Alexandria, & to yourself my respectful salutations.
To Samuel Snowden, September 29, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders CAN keep their thoughtful acts private.
Jefferson always fled the coast, the area he called the tidewater, for Monticello in August and September to escape the deadly yellow fever. Its cause was unknown but was believed to result from bad air that circulated in low-lying areas that time of year. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia killed 5,000, more than 10% of the city’s population. It would be almost a century later, in 1900, before doctors determined that mosquitoes spread the deadly disease.

The President knew that not everyone could escape the tidewater and yellow fever. Thus, he made a $100 contribution to a newspaper publisher in tidewater-surrounded Alexandria, VA, for the relief of those ravaged by the disease, requesting his donation be kept anonymous.

“Patrick Lee was our first guest speaker and he set the bar very high
with his remarkable portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
Board of Directors, Sedalia Heritage Foundation
Mr. Jefferson will set the bar equally high at your conference.
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Ugly, expensive or inconvenient? Fugettaboutit!

The most approved plan of an [military] Hospital [in Boston is] of 4000. square feet area, two stories … the rooms for the sick to be well aired …
Th:J. proposes to mr Gallatin that some such advertisement as the above be published in Washington where there are many architects who will probably compete for the premium. in the erection of public buildings, taste, convenience & economy should all be respected.
To Albert Gallatin, June 21, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Public leaders should have strict standards for spending public money.
Congress had approved $15,000 for a hospital for ailing seamen in Massachusetts. President Jefferson wrote to his Secretary of the Treasury about soliciting architectural designs from architects in Washington and offered a $50 premium for the winning design.

Worth noting is his request that ” the rooms for the sick to be well aired.” He ascribed to a theory of healing that included fresh air as a necessary component, one not considered by most medical practioners of the day.

Jefferson noted three factors that “should all be respected” in the design of public buildings:
1. Taste – a strong and lasting visual appeal
2. Convenience – a design that facilitates the building’s intended use
3. Economy – remembering that public money was being spent

Gallatin did not issue the specifications as written by his boss. Neither did he solicit designs in Washington but only in Boston, where he said local residents would more appreciate a building designed by one of their own citizens.

“My franchisees thoroughly enjoyed your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
I especially was impressed how well you tied in our meeting topics into your speech.”
Franchise Owner, Mail Boxes, Etc.
Mr. Jefferson will tailor his remarks to complement the theme of your meeting.
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You are depressed. This will help.

I am sorry to find by your letter that you are become so recluse. to be 4. or 5. months without descending your stairs … I have admired nothing in the character of your nation [France] more than the chearfulness & love of society which they preserve to great old age. I have viewed it as a pattern which I would endeavor to follow, by resisting the inclinations which age brings on, of retiring from society, & by forcing myself to mix in it’s scenes of recreation. do you so also, my friend. consider chearfulness as your physician, and seek it through the haunts of society … your excellent dispositions should not be lost to those among whom you are placed … keep your mind then on more pleasing subjects, & especially on the remembrance of your friendships among which none claims a warmer place than that I constantly bear to you.
To Madame De Corny, April 23, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sensitive leaders seek to encourage those who are in sad straights.
Jefferson’s old friend from his days as a minister to France had fallen on hard times. She wrote a sad letter and said she spent months on end alone in her room. He appealed to her that the beauty of Paris and the life-long friendliness of its people would help her, if only she would leave that room.

Jefferson noticed that advancing age brought on a tendency to withdraw from society. He fought that tendency by forcing himself to mingle with others and thus be encouraged by the beauty of life. He appealed to his friend to do the same. “Chearfullness” would be her physician if she sought it through society.

His final appeal was not to deprive others of her gifts and personality, which he had come to know and appreciate. She should focus “on more pleasing subjects,” and remember her friends, of whom he was the warmest.

“After seeing you perform several years ago, I did not expect
you could improve much on your character.
However, I have to say your program has gotten even better with age!”

Missouri Department of Conservation
Mr. Jefferson continues to get better with age!
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Give it to me frank, truthful and complete!

… the legislature is likely to establish a marine hospital at New Orleans, where we lose about 400. boatmen & seamen annually by sickness … I consider the nomination [of superintendent] to such a place as a sacred charge … I would greatly prefer those who have established a reputation by practice. I have however as yet but a single application from a Physician of any age & experience … the object of this letter is to ask your information of his [Dr. Barnwell of Philadelphia] character medical & moral, and that you will be so good as to write it to me candidly, unreservedly, and fully, assured that it shall be confined to myself alone …
To Caspar Wistar, March 22, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders need candid input on important personnel matters.
Wistar (1761-1818) was a noted Philadelphia physician and expert in anatomy, and a friend and confidante of Jefferson’s. The President expected a raft of applicants to lead the new hospital at New Orleans, but he preferred an experienced, capable doctor. He had received only one such application but didn’t know enough about the man. He sought Wistar’s opinion.
1. He needed to know about the applicant’s “character medical & moral.” Competency in medicine was not enough. He needed to be a moral man, as well.
2. He wanted Wistar to write him “candidly, unreservedly, and fully,” (emphasis Jefferson’s). His evaluation should be frank, truthful and complete.
3. He assured Wistar that his assessment would remain between the two of them only.

Wistar responded in the manner requested, but Jefferson subsequently appointed another to the position.

“Thank you again,
and please do not hesitate to use this letter as a recommendation…”
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson comes well-recommended.
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1 Comment Posted in Health, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Who is more useful in old age and why, doctor, farmer or politician?

I am become sensible of a great advantage your profession has over most others, that, to the close of your life, you can be always doing good to mankind: whereas a retired politician is like a broken down courser [a swift horse], unfit for the turf, and good for little else. I am endeavoring to recover the little I once knew of farming, gardening Etc. and would gladly now exchange any branch of science I possess for the knolege of a common farmer. too old to learn, I must be contented with the occupation & amusement of the art.
To Benjamin Rush, September 22, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders are far more valuable than others.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a Philadelphia physician, life-long friend of Jefferson’s and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence. His medical views were controversial. He favored bloodletting and purging. He sent 600 of “Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills” with Lewis and Clark. Also known as “Rush’s Thunderclappers,” this mercury and chlorine laxative of his own creation had an explosive effect on the human bowel.

But Rush also opposed capital punishment, favored education for women, actively promoted Christianity and pioneered more humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is regarded as the father of American psychiatry.

Here, Jefferson praises the value of the doctor, who can “be always good to mankind,” even to the end of his life. He likened himself, a retired politician, to a former race horse, once fast but now broken down and worthless. In between was the farmer, the identity he always preferred, who also could be useful for a lifetime. Public service drew him away from the land, and he regretted it. He would trade any of his vast scientific understanding “for the knoledge of a common farmer.” He thought himself too old to learning farming once again and amused himself by puttering around his lands.

“I have been told by both the principal and a fourth grade teacher …
that you were the best speaker

they had seen at the school, and the teacher had been in the classroom for 25 years …”
Jefferson Dinner Chair, Hannah Cole Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
Mr. Jefferson excels at inspiring both children and adults!
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