The Jeffersons And Real America

My eyes burned from held-back tears on Nov. 9 when it was proclaimed that Donald J. Trump was the new president-elect. I felt so powerless, unvalued and little.

With the Miami Book Fair rapidly approaching, it was hard to find the willpower to engage in an event that I was looking forward to all year.

It wasn’t until I studied the lineup that I encountered a newfound hunger to protest, not through the streets, but through words.

I had the honor of interviewing Pulitzer Prize and National Book award winner Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf on their book “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, where they studied and wrote personal and intimate accounts of who Thomas Jefferson was—a perplexed man desperately trying to define his belief in faith, slavery and livelihood, seeking his identity as a man and father all while aiding in founding a new country.

I also interviewed Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray for their novel America’s First Daughter, where they tell the untold story of Patsy Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, the woman who sacrificed so much to make Jefferson who he was only to have her voice silenced by her own prejudices and history monopolized by white men. What was so baffling about these books was their objective truthfulness in how slavery was a focal point in American aristocratic life, politics, and in the formation of this country.

The weekend came to a final close when National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead took the stand in the Chapman chamber. You couldn’t hear a pin drop as he read from his book The Underground Railroad, an account of Cora, the heroine, and her traumatic experiences escaping from her plantation to freedom.

He read how a couple of newly married slaves on their wedding night were interrupted by their master who wanted to show how a man ought to pleasure his wife. The words that escaped his lips were so poignant that my voice was caught in my throat, reminding me what I felt.

But there was one thing that was repeated by Gordon-Reed, Onuf, Kamoie, and Whitehead that stuck with me. The United States has always been a country of many people; of Native Americans, blacks, latinos, immigrants, Islamics. It was never anything else.

It solidified for me not only the reality of this country, but the direction in which this country is going. We are currently battling for an America of equal opportunity, or continue in an America for the few.

These writers have found their ways in fighting for an America they believe in, and they inspired me to use my words to encourage people to fight for what is right for all.

Although the result of the recent election can incite hopelessness for the future, we have to keep in mind that we periodically elect the people who represent us, and this is where the power of democracy lies.

We must keep living the American experience and build confidence and pragmatism to better this democratic system inherited from our founding fathers who after all were torn between great humanistic principle and the almighty profit.

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Johanna Piard

Johanna Piard, 18, is pursuing a bachelor’s in English Literature/ English Education with a minor in communications at the Wolfson Campus. Piard will serve as a staff writer at The Reporter for the 2015-2016 school year. She plans to use her experience at The Reporter as a stepping stone to a career as a book editor for a publishing firm.

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