Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Exploration Legacy Is Not Over Yet

As perhaps you know, I’m now the editor of the quarterly journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, “We Proceeded On.” That’s one of the refrains of William Clark’s journal of the 28-month expedition that was the brainchild of the great Jefferson. Whatever else was true, virtually every day (there were 1,123 of them), Clark announced that “we proceeded on” — …


Unheralded

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — What Could We Possibly Really Know?

I get so tired of the Sally Hemings story. At almost every public presentation I give in the costume and character of Thomas Jefferson, someone sashays up to the microphone in the aisle and says, “Tell us about Sally Henning” or some other slight botching of her name. “Or tell us about your family, and I mean all of your …


CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Conflict Of Interest

Thomas Jefferson had many opportunities to speculate in western lands. Many of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, were engaged in land speculation beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Jefferson quietly refused because he knew that at some point he might have to “legislate” for the public domain, and he did not want to be guilty of conflict of interest or even …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Big Military Parades

President Trump wants a big military parade, the kind one saw in Stalin’s Soviet Union, the kind one sees today in North Korea. It might be useful to compare that notion with the republican dignity of the third president, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson broke with the habit of his two predecessors and sent his annual messages by courier to Congress. He …

CLAY JENKINSON: Poor John Adams: Right And Wrong As Always

Basic chronology: June 7, 1776: Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee presents resolution of independence to the Second Continental Congress. June 11: Committee of five appointed to draft a declaration explaining America’s right to secede: Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson. The others drop out in the following order: Sherman, Livingston, Franklin and Adams. Jefferson signs and undertakes to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Driving The Yellowstone River Valley At The Time Of The Solstice

I was out in western Montana helping my mother get her wee Thoreavian cabin ready for the summer. We had a couple of sweet days together. She is 85 years old, still strong and autonomous, but just beginning to exhibit signs of elderliness. It bothers me to see her in even modest decline. I’m sure it bothers her much more. …

CLAY JENKINSON: Sad Lessons From the Nixon White House

Given where things are headed, I’m preparing the way a humanities scholar prepares. I’m reading accounts of the life and presidency of Richard M. Nixon. I’ll place a short bibliography of books worth reading at the bottom of this essay. The constitutional crisis we are now descending into is either much less grave than Watergate or much, much more serious. …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Death Of Decorum In The White House

As a scholar not a partisan, I have been trying to think if any president in American history has behaved in a less presidential way than Donald Trump. Andrew Jackson was a frontier ruffian in some respects, a loud populist, and during his inauguration March 4, 1829, his rural supporters trashed the White House. Theodore Roosevelt called his enemies colorful …

CLAY JENKINSON: You Do the Math: A Tale Of Two Presidents

A tale of two presidents. Here’s President Obama’s statement in the guestbook at Israel’s Holocaust memorial, July 2008: “I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but …

CLAY JENKINSON: Time To Get It Over With

Donald Trump is almost certainly going to have to resign. His behavior in the Flynn-Comey affair is nothing short of obstruction of justice. Even Republicans who have defended his hijinks until now are beginning to understand the gravity of the President’s misbehavior. We need to swallow hard and get this over with. I knew long before the election that President …

CLAY JENKINSON: Erasing The Past

Students at Columbia University recently put a Ku Klux Klan hood over the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands in front of the journalism school. The group, known as Mobilized African Diaspora, declared that “Jefferson’s statue makes it clear that black students are merely tokens of the university.” MAD argued that “venerating” Jefferson “validates rape, sexual violence and racism,” which …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Jefferson Watch — Our Gardens

When I moved back to North Dakota in 2005, I determined to plant a vegetable garden. I moved back to the Great Plains just in case the world collapsed and when it did, I wanted to be near farm country — where I could, like “The Martian,” grow just enough potatoes to survive. The moment I got all the boxes …

CLAY JENKINSON: The NEH – The Most Jeffersonian Thing In America

Thomas Jefferson would probably not have supported the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, at least in his own time. Don’t get me wrong. He loved the arts. He read in seven languages. In fact, he was reading Thucydides in ancient Greek, without a grammar or dictionary, in the 83rd year of his life. In …

CLAY JENKINSON: Theodore Roosevelt, John Steinbeck, and Pinnacles National Monument

The other day, our Steinbeck cultural tour made the journey from Monterey, Calif., to Pinnacles National Park. There is no clear and obvious Steinbeck connection, except that the National Park is part of the Gabilan Mountain system, and that range marked the eastern boundary of the Salinas River Valley, sacred to Steinbeck and the source location of several of his …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Summer Lewis And Clark Cultural Tour

Join our annual adventure — the Summer Lewis and Clark Cultural Tour on July 18-25 — through the famous White Cliffs section of the Missouri River and the most pristine portion of the entire Lewis & Clark trail, in the Bitterroot Mountains west of Missoula, Mont. Participants must be in good physical shape to participate. For those who do not …

CLAY JENKINSON: Trump’s Inaugural Address

Donald Trump delivered a 16-minute inaugural address January 20. Some have called it “the most divisive in American history.” I did not hear it — with Trump tone and delivery matter greatly — but on the page it certainly does not seem to me to be that divisive. Here are my thoughts about reading it quietly in my library. Donald …

CLAY JENKINSON: Anger And Hypocrisy

I find it interesting that for eight years the anti-Obama legions kept their eyes open at all times for signs that Barack Obama was “an angry black man.” If at any time, he showed the slightest impatience or raised his voice above a certain level, or spoke in something that could be thought to resemble black street English, the conservative …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Fallacies of the Dakota Access Pipeline ‘Argument’

There is a dreary predictability about the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, especially in the words that come out of people unsympathetic to the protest. I’m listing those I hear most often: 1. There are lots of non-Indians down there. They have no business here. They discredit (here’s the special kicker in this argument) “what otherwise would have been a perfectly legitimate …

CLAY JENKINSON: Steinbeck Country

Of the great American writers, John Steinbeck is the most accessible. His masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath,” is perhaps the most widely read of all American classics. He wrote it in the white heat of anger — how the 1 percent were mistreating displaced Americans, “Okies,” good agrarian men and women of the Plains, who had made their way to the fields of …

CLAY JENKINSON: A New Year — Perhaps a New Era

Jan. 11 — Today my mother (85), my daughter (22) and I drove down to the encampment on the north bank of the Cannonball River. It was an astonishingly beautiful day on the northern Great Plains: cold, but clear, with an azure sky that contrasted perfectly with the snow. We took the long way around thanks to the road closure. What …

CLAY JENKINSON: American Podium —Clay Jenkinson As President Theodore Roosevelt

Watch history come alive when scholar Clay Jenkinson appears in costume and character as President Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt served seven years, 171 days as the 26th president of the United States. He was an accidental president, “kicked upstairs” into the vice presidency in 1900, ascending to the presidency on Sept. 14, 1901, after President William McKinley died of gunshot …

CLAY JENKINSON: Rome Journal — Bruno, Pantheon And More

A good night of sleep. Now I feel equal to it. After class yesterday, I ventured into the heart of Rome. There, I found my way to the statue of Bruno in the Campo di Fiori. He, a Renaissance humanist, heretic and memorization master, was burned at the stake in 1600 for a range of unacceptable views, including that Jesus …

CLAY JENKINSON: Rome Journal — Arrival

It’s a big planet. I flew from Bismarck to Minneapolis, from Minneapolis to Paris, from Paris to Rome. I started at noon Saturday and arrived in Rome at noon Sunday, though, of course, I had lost seven hours in time zone. It’s a big planet. By the time I arrived I wanted to burn my clothes. But I had done …

CLAY JENKINSON: Rome Journal — To Rome

Journal of a journey to Rome. I’m teaching a capstone humanities course for a Catholic university. Twenty-five students. They have been there all semester, staying in a convent that has plenty of room for the campus. My job is to show them things about Rome that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. Long day of flying ahead. Bismarck, …

CLAY JENKINSON: Thanksgiving

To all my friends around the United States and beyond, I am writing to give thanks for your friendship, for your interest in my work, for your commitment to the principles of Enlightenment. In the wake of the raucous election and the American circus of failed political civility; in the wake of the appalling and unnecessary crisis on the Standing …

CLAY JENKINSON: Let Us Now Praise The Robustness Of American Democracy

To my friends who are feeling frightened and damaged by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016, I offer the following thoughts. First, the people have spoken. Virtually the entire American establishment —mainline politicians, the media, the major religious leaders, Hollywood, the pundits of both parties, former and current national security personnel, the diplomatic corps, the leaders …

CLAY JENKINSON: A Clash of World Views — Kevin Locke

I had the honor today to hear the world renowned Lakota flute player and hoop dancer Kevin Locke perform in Bismarck. He’s in his 60s now. He has been performing all over the world since he was in his early 20s. He’s a national and international treasure. Someone I know, who knows these things, says Kevin Locke is the greatest …

CLAY JENKINSON: Standing Rock Sioux Crisis — A Plea for Understanding

I know many of you have little respect for the Standing Rock Sioux (Lakota) in the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline crisis. Your views by now are pretty well known: A) The Sioux leadership should have been at the negotiating table long ago, when it might have made a difference; b) the pipeline is off the reservation, so the Lakota don’t …

CLAY JENKINSON: Concession V. Concussion

When Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in the presidential election of 1800, Adams was bitter for several reasons. First, he was an important American patriot and revolutionary who believed he deserved to be re-elected by the American people. He could not understand why someone of his historical significance would be retired after a single term. He had the notion that …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Winter Humanities Retreats

One of the principal joys of my life is hosting humanities retreats at Lochsa Lodge, just west of Missoula, Mont., in the first weeks of January. People gather from all over the country to talk about books for four days. It’s not just about books, of course. It’s about the art of genuine, mutually respectful conversation. It’s about reading and thinking …

CLAY JENKINSON: Our Sad Fractured Republic

As the election lurches toward us, I find myself in a deep sadness, even a depression. Probably Hillary Clinton is going to win. If she does, it will not give her a mandate or even a reasonably good chance of proving herself as president. She will be wounded from the moment she declares victory. If you think the conservatives did what …

CLAY JENKINSON: Donald Trump’s Appalling Game

By now, we all know that Donald Trump is a loose cannon. He says things he cannot possibly mean in order to whip his national constituency into a frenzy of xenophobia, islamophobia, race hatred, American-firstism and the zeal to depart 11 million to 15 million illegal immigrants. Every rational person now has to decide whether President Trump would try to …

CLAY JENKINSON: Notice The Effects Of Terror — Standing Rock

As perhaps you know, the Native Americans encamped on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation felt that they were perhaps being sprayed with tear gas yesterday, Sept. 28. They were not. Although Morton County law enforcement brought armored vehicles and a range of other paramilitary devices to the scenes of protest, the spray plane turned out to be a crop duster. …

CLAY JENKINSON: Campaign Diary — One

The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton won the first presidential debate Monday. I was less certain. She was clearly better at talking policy, but I doubt that she really drew many undecided voters to her side. If she had been debating an inspired or charismatic opponent, she would come off as dull and uninspiring. My own study of American …

CLAY JENKINSON: The Lakota Protest — Head and Heart

This is just going to be a personal meditation, and I apologize to anyone who would rather have more analytics and argumentation. When I was still a teenager, my best friend gave me a copy of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown. I read it hard and fast, cover to cover, and it changed my life. It’s basically …

CLAY JENKINSON: Indian Sovereignty As Monopoly Money

Non-Indians have a very hard time understanding and recognizing the concept of tribal sovereignty. No matter what the U.S. Constitution might say, or Chief Justice John Marshall, most non-Indians see Native Americans as a poor, ghettoized and dysfunctional people living on the fringes of American society. They are aware that Indians license their vehicles with special plates, according to the …

CLAY JENKINSON: Taking Off On Some Airplane Follies

Ten (OK, a bunch more) Things That I Find Totally Annoying in Airplane Travel 1: The flight is sitting on the tarmac in the departure city. Minutes pass, then tens of minutes. The pilot doesn’t bother to get on the intercom to explain what’s happening. We all have connections to make at the next hub. How hard is it to keep …

CLAY JENKINSON: Standing Rock — A Plea To Keep This Pure — And Non-Violent

In the southern heart of North Dakota, we may be witnessing the beginning of a national and international pan-Indian renewal of First Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans. Anything that helps rebuild Indian pride, cultural confidence and a firm and solid assertion of Native American rights is a good thing for all of us, for all Americans. It is past time …

CLAY JENKINSON: Standing Rock — A Time to Listen, Not to Spout

Events of historic importance are slowly unfolding south of Mandan, N.D., near the boundary of another nation state, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Dakota Access Pipeline protest has grown into something much larger and more important for the future of white-Indian relations. It is no longer just about the pipeline. We may be witnessing the beginning of a continent-wide …

CLAY JENKINSON: I Respect The Protests At Standing Rock

It’s in all of our interests to show respect for the protests now under way at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation (and nearby). I acknowledge that the pipeline company has a right to extend its oil pipeline across the Missouri River (willing buyer — willing seller, the very essence of American capitalism). I acknowledge that the state of North Dakota has …