Over the past couple of days I have recording an audio version of my book Becoming Jefferson's People: Re-Inventing the American Republic in the Twenty-First Century.
I love voice work and want to do much more of it. I plan to record the audio of my book of essays about North Dakota; and my study of the life and character of Meriwether Lewis. I hope also (in the next year) to record books that I did not myself write, but that are among my favorite books: Thoreau's Walden; Cather's My Antonia; The Iliad; Hamlet; etc.
Strange to say, I have not actually read Becoming Jefferson's People for ten years. My life is like a freight train—pushing me along to the next project, the next book, the next journey. At this remove, I even have a hard time remembering just when I decided to write Becoming Jefferson's People, and the exact process of writing it.
Here's what I felt and discovered in the last couple of days in the Makoché Recording Studios in Bismarck, North Dakota.
1. I believe this is an important book and I wish all of our political candidates, legislators, and political pundits would read it.
If you have any way of getting the book into the hands of people who are "in the arena" of our national political life, please help. I'm serious. I believe that Jefferson's vision of an American republic is the right one; that it is not too late to redeem and reclaim our culture; and that this voice needs to be part of the national conversation.
2. I'm really proud that I wrote Becoming Jefferson's People.
It's spot on, I believe, and it confirmed my belief that it's Jefferson's America I want to live in, not Hamilton's, not FDR's, not G.W. Bush's, not Obama's. I think it is essential that all of us dream of the world we want to live in, and then work hard to bring that world into being. I want to live in Jefferson's world, updated to jettison that in his perspective that no longer works (slavery, patriarchy), but clarifying and re-invigorating that which is essential to an enlightened nation.
3. I was inspired in reading the book to live a more jeffersonian life.
The book is a kind of aspirational vision of the enlightened life. But it is also a mirror we can hold up to our own lives, to test them against the ideals of rationality, civility, science, and generous skepticism. Heck, if I was inspired reading my own book (!), I think others will be inspired too.
Here are a couple of passages that I really like:
"Suspicious of positive government, Jefferson believed that education is the panacea, that almost all social ills will disappear in a better informed and better educated nation."—Does any not agree with this?
"Jefferson loved books as books, and regarded them as sensuous objects, and even works of art. He made sure that his beloved books were elegantly and sumptuously bound, shelves in aesthetic good taste, and classified intelligently."
"In spite of all that the evangelicals pretend, the Constitution of the United States is entirely silent on questions of religion. God is never mentioned in the Constitution, not even as the 'Creator' or 'Nature's God' (both from the Declaration of Independence)."
"Jefferson believed that we exist to be happy, not to struggle through life or perform duties or deny ourselves pleasures. There is nothing dour or Calvinist in the Jeffersonian temperament. No day should unfold without the pleasures of food, wine, nature, flowers, exercise, correspondence, family, friendships, books, art, music, and contemplation. And love."
If you want to read this book you can purchase it at Amazon.com. The audio version of the book will be available in a couple of weeks. We're going to use it as a "premium" for $75 subscribers to the Thomas Jefferson Hour, and it will be available probably at Audible.com. Stay tuned!
- Becoming Jefferson's People: Re-Inventing the American Republic in the Twenty-First Century by Clay S. Jenkinson (Audiobook) (Amazon)
- The Character of Meriwether Lewis: Explorer in the Wilderness by Clay S. Jenkinson
- For the Love of North Dakota and Other Essays: Sundays with Clay in the Bismarck Tribune by Clay S. Jenkinson
- Message on the Wind: A Spiritual Odyssey on the Northern Plains by Clay S. Jenkinson
- Read Jefferson’s entire passage from Notes on Virginia about religious liberty.