Doug Kelley is a dear friend of mine and the man who recruited me into a leadership position in the Washtenaw County Democratic Party where I am now the Chair. Doug is not only an activist – a career in itself that has spanned seven decades and includes the formation of the organization that was the predecessor to the Peace Corps – but he is also one of the nation’s top collectors of political memorabilia. I have had the privilege of having a personal tour of Doug’s extensive collection which is housed in its own building behind his home and it is eye-popping.
Doug recently shared with me a letter to the editor that he sent to the New York Times in response to an article they wrote about what they considered to be America’s best “ex-presidents”. Doug, someone who is an authentic expert on the matter, took exception to the absence of Thomas Jefferson in their piece.
Below is Doug’s letter.
Having studied and taught American political history, and having been immersed in it for an 86-year lifetime, I was shocked to find not a single reference to Thomas Jefferson in Justin S.Vaughn’s article (“The Making of a Great Ex-President,” New York Times, May 24, 2015).
In retirement from a term as Vice-President and two terms as President, Jefferson could reasonably have chosen to focus entirely on the management and enjoyment of his farms and household, but instead he created from scratch a great university, designing the architecture and the curricula, and recruiting faculty, for the University of Virginia.
Rather than touting the vast Louisiana Purchase, he chose as one of his three greatest lifetime accomplishments, to be listed on his tombstone, becoming the Father of the University of Virginia, a hugely ambitious retirement project.
A popular green and white T-shirt a few years ago had side by side portraits of Jimmy Carter and and of Thomas Jefferson, and proclaimed: “Best ex-Prez since Jefferson: Jimmy Carter.”
[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.]