Episode 229: Mr. Jefferson and His University
Alumni of the University of Virginia enjoy pointing out that while Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone declares his foundation of that university as his third great achievement, it does not so much as mention his presidency of the United States. Jefferson had a vision of what a great university could and should be, and the political talent and allies to see that vision implemented. That vision was an intimate part of his republican political philosophy, and of his hopes and fears for the fate of the republic in whose creation he had participated. As Andrew O’Shaughnessy writes in his new book The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University, “Acknowledging that his ideas were utopian, [Jefferson] regarded himself as an idealist who wanted to benefit humankind, improve society, and offer a happier life.”
Andrew O’Shaughnessy is Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, and the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. His most recent book was The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of Empire, which was awarded the George Washington Book Prize.