Several local leaders and residents gathered Tuesday at the Missouri state Capitol to celebrate Jefferson City's namesake and the Founding Father whom this city is named after.
Born April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 before serving as the third United States president from 1801-09.
As a politician, Jefferson focused on generational sovereignty. Keynote speaker Dr. Christa Dierksheide, a noted Thomas Jefferson scholar, said Jefferson believed only the present generation — the "living generation" — could be governed by the laws they made. He also believed each generation would govern better than his own generation, she added.
While there were times where he questioned whether the younger generation would guide the nation toward better opportunities, Dierksheide said, Jefferson continued to educate the younger generations in hopes they would uphold equality and his governance principles.
Jefferson's thoughts regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as his belief in the younger generation, remains the "touchstone" for the U.S., said Dierksheide, an assistant professor of history at the University of Missouri.
"Jefferson's ideas and his hopes are still with us," she told a crowd of about 25 people. "The notion of one American people, despite all of our challenges, all of our divisions, remains relevant to us, as to our commitment to natural rights and to equality and to this county and to the world."
Ward 2 Councilman Rick Mihalevich helped spearhead the Thomas Jefferson celebrations the last two years. He said it's important to recognize and remember the Jefferson City's namesake.
"I think for the sake of the city's namesake, we need to continue to recognize the principles of his governance," he said. "As it was explained tonight, that has a generational perspective on it in that as long as his principles are upheld as a nation, it will prove us well in the future."
Dierksheide said it's also important to "figure out how Jefferson's ideas can be relevant but also resonate with today's generations in the 21st century."
"I think making that connection makes Jefferson a lot more important and his principles and ideas feel more immediate to today," she added.
Following Dierksheide's lecture, audience members toured the Lewis and Clark Exhibit at the Capitol. During Jefferson's two terms in office, the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory, which Jefferson tasked Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore.
Jefferson City, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jefferson City Cultural Arts Commission, the Historic City of Jefferson and Missouri State Museum hosted Tuesday's event.