Tag Archives: West Point

Don’t pick them all. Only a select few, instead.

…  if you appoint all the members of the legislature to be members of the institution, it will gratify no particular member, nor lead him to feel any more interest in the institution than he does at present. on the other hand, a judicious selection of a few, friends of science, or lovers of the military art, will be gratifying to them inasmuch as it is a selection, and inspire them with the desire of actively patronising it’s interests.
The contingent fund of the war department, is applicable only to objects known to the law. it cannot be applied to any thing merely voluntary & unauthorised by the law.
Thomas Jefferson to Jonathan Williams, July 14, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
If all are “leaders,” none will lead.
Williams (1751-1815) had been appointed by Jefferson to be the first superintendent of the new military academy at West Point, NY. He wanted to establish separate a military scientific society and asked the President which esteemed persons should be appointed to promote it. He suggested all members of Congress, so as not to give offense by leaving someone out.

Jefferson replied that if all were appointed, the position wouldn’t gratify any of them. Better to pick a few qualified people with a particular interest in science or “the military art,” confident they would be active boosters.

Williams also asked, citing the public benefit of the society, that a small allowance from the war department’s contingency fund be allocated to cover the expenses of creating that society. The President said no. Those funds could not go to anything outside the Constitution or unapproved by Congress.

“… it quickly became evident that our attendees …
[were] listening to Thomas Jefferson …
not Patrick Lee portraying [him].”
Deputy Executive Director, Missouri Rural Water Association
Invite Thomas Jefferson to inspire your audience.
Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Forget political correctness. Pick gifted people, instead.

if you appoint all the members of the legislature to be members of the institution, it will gratify no particular member, nor lead him to feel any more interest in the institution than he does at present. on the other hand, a judicious selection of a few, friends of science, or lovers of the military art, will be gratifying to them inasmuch as it is a selection, and inspire them with the desire of actively patronising it’s interests.
To Jonathan Williams, July 14, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders want other leaders to be inspriring, too.
In addition to appointing Williams Superintendent of West Point in 1801, Jefferson asked him to revive a scientific society devoted to military history. Williams had asked the President about appointing a leadership board from Congress that would actively promote the society. He suggested appointing the entire Congress, so as not to give offense by leaving anyone out.

Jefferson disagreed. Appointing everyone would make the position special for no one, and the society would receive no benefit. Instead, it would be best to select a few gifted military history partisans. Not only would they would appreciate the honor of being chosen, they would actively work to promote the society’s agenda.

“I cannot say it better than the board member who wrote,
‘Well done, enjoyable and timeless.’

… what I was looking for in a closing speaker and what you provided so well.”
Conference Manager, NE Association of School Boards
& NE Association of School Administrators
Well done. Enjoyable. Timeless.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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