“... I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."

-Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Acts of Optimism ... Hope in Action ... Journey Toward a More Perfect Union

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

In writing his own epitaph, Jefferson chose three forward-looking, aspirational accomplishments reflecting his hope that future generations would continue to advance the American experiment in self-government.

Inspired by Jefferson's Vision
Inspired by Jefferson's Vision

Hope in Action

“I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes indeed sometimes fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy.” 

 -Thomas Jefferson, 1816


Reinventing What America Means

As a nation of immigrants, who we welcome to join the American experiment in self-government is an ongoing challenge.

Connecting with the Past

Gayle Jessup White, descendant of the Hemings and Jefferson families, reflects on the determination and perseverance of her enslaved ancestors.

On Juneteenth

Professor Gordon-Reed discusses her book, On Juneteenth, with moderator and Getting Word descendant Andrew Davenport.

Thomas Jefferson's hopes and aspirations for the American experiment in self-government are echoed by political and activist leaders throughout the nation's history.

Collage of Leaders

Click on the collage to view quotations from some of America's leaders through history.


Great Things at a Great Cost

“A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry …advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye.” Thomas Jefferson, 1801

The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States, ushering in an era of migration of citizens (often accompanied by those they enslaved) and immigrants from the eastern seaboard and Europe to inhabit the West.

At what cost did fulfilling the dreams of Jefferson and those who followed his vision of an "empire of liberty" come? The settlement of the West displaced the Native American population, destroying much of its culture, and the problem of slavery spreading to new territories set the stage for the Civil War.

Journey Toward a More Perfect Union

"When clambering a mountain, we always hope the hill we are on is the last. But it is the next, and the next, and still the next." -Thomas Jefferson, 1786

A Civic Engagement Initiative sponsored by and in collaboration with The New York Community Trust – The Peter G. Peterson FundPeterson Foundation Logo