July 3, 2011
When President Obama ponders tough decisions at the White House, he may join the cadre of presidents who have sought inspiration in the Truman Balcony’s stunning vista, gazing at the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, which commemorate our first and third commanders in chief. But there’s a man missing from this presidential panorama.
Where is John Adams, our feisty second president and lifelong American patriot? If George Washington was the sword of the revolution and Thomas Jefferson the pen, why have we neglected the voice of our nation’s independence?
Adams himself predicted this omission. “Monuments will never be erected to me . . . romances will never be written, nor flattering orations spoken, to transmit me to posterity in brilliant colors,” he wrote in 1819, nearly two decades after his single term in office. At his farm in Quincy, Mass., Adams worried that he would be forgotten by history, and for good reason: The temperamental Yankee could never outshine Washington and Jefferson, Virginia’s two-term presidential all-stars — one a brilliant general unanimously chosen to lead the nation, the other the eloquent author of the Declaration of Independence.
“The way the Jefferson Memorial is built, Jefferson is looking right in the center window,” President Bill Clinton told White House guests in 1994. “I go out on the balcony a lot . . . and look at it.”
It’s a shame he couldn’t see Adams, too. Still, as we celebrate July 4 — the anniversary of the declaration’s adoption and of Adams’s death — it’s high time we honored this“passionate sage,” as Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis titled his Adams biography. He is the founding father most unsung in the capital’s memorial landscape.
This article was posted: Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 2:01 am