Remarks from Daniel P. Jordan, President of TJF, at the meeting of the Monticello Association, May 15, 1999
Remarks of Daniel P. Jordan, Ph.D.,
President, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
MONTICELLO ASSOCIATION RECEPTION, Saturday, May 15, 1999
Note: The Monticello Association is the group of descendants of Thomas Jefferson. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is the private, nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello.
Whoever said history is dull?
I'm Dan Jordan, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the private, nonprofit corporation that has owned and operated Monticello since 1923. Our mission is straightforward: preservation and education. We're here as stewards of the only home in America on the World Heritage List, a distinction that Monticello holds with the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt. We're also here to share everything we can learn about Thomas Jefferson, his plantation home, and the enslaved African-American community with as many different audiences as possible worldwide.
Scholarship drives the mission. We have eight Ph.D.s on the Monticello staff, and six colleagues who have published one or more books with a university press. Scholarship isn't foolproof, but it gives us the best chance of getting our history right. Scholarship also helps us appreciate that accurate history must be inclusive history. You cannot understand Thomas Jefferson without understanding slavery, and you cannot understand Monticello without understanding its African-American community. This is not being politically correct. It is being scholarly.
Over the past fifteen years, the Foundation has tried hard to learn more about slavery, and Monticello's African-American community -- a process that leads us quite naturally to this evening's event, which we welcome and which we believe is a positive milestone for many reasons.
We have long worked with the Monticello Association, a completely separate, private, nonprofit group that owns the Monticello cemetery. We've also had the pleasure of working with the Hemings and Woodson families as part of our "Getting Word" oral history project, in which my colleagues have interviewed coast to coast over one hundred descendants of Monticello slaves. Parenthetically, I would call your attention to the "Getting Word" exhibit at our Visitors Center.
In 1992 we were pleased to welcome over 150 members of the Woodson Family Association here on the mountaintop, and in 1997 we hosted a weekend gathering of over 130 participants in the "Getting Word" project. For years the Foundation has issued lifetime passes to all descendants of Monticello's African-American community.
I've been asked more than once what this weekend is all about. I believe this weekend is about an opportunity for individuals who share a common heritage -- and common ground at Monticello -- to come together and to get to know one another better. This weekend is an American story.
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is honored to be a part of this historic event. We look forward to every opportunity to work with those in attendance as well as with the families and traditions they represent -- all in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, who believed in following truth wherever in may lead.