The last few days have featured pictures of the cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin. In several pictures, the Jefferson Memorial also features in the photos. This elegant, stately memorial to one of America's leading founders and great thinkers is one of four presidential memorials or monuments on or near the National Mall. The four presidents are: Jefferson, the Author of Independence; Washington, the Father of Our Country; Lincoln, the Preserver of Our Union; and Roosevelt, the Defender of Democracy.
The Jefferson Memorial, honoring America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, sits on the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. The memorial has a direct line of sight to the White House and is one of the first things every sitting president sees when he gets up in the morning. (Assuming he's looking out the window.) The Jefferson Memorial was designed by John Russell Pope and mimics the architecture of Jefferson's Rotunda at the University of Virginia. The cornerstone for the memorial was laid in November 1939 and the edifice was dedicated on April 13, 1943--the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth.
Inside the rotunda of the memorial is a 19 ft (5.8 m) statue of Jefferson sculpted by Rudulph Evans; it was added to the site in 1947. On the walls surrounding the statue are excerpts from the writings of Thomas Jefferson, including the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Encircling the space is this famous and vigilant quote from Jefferson:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, (as did his friend and fellow patriot, John Adams.) He is buried in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the grounds of his beloved estate, Monticello, and within view of the school he founded, the aforementioned UVA. On his tombstone is engraved the epitaph he wrote himself: Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.
At a dinner in the White House for the winners of the Nobel Prize in the Western Hemisphere in April 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 3/08