Quoting Thomas Jefferson at UVA

A protestor on the Lawn holds up a sign with words from the oft-quoted founding father. Photo by John Robinson.

The ever-quotable Thomas Jefferson had plenty to say during his lifetime about governance, transparency, and the future of the university he founded. No surprise, then, that his name and words have been invoked a number of times over the last three weeks by people on both sides of the debate on Grounds over Sullivan’s resignation. So who said what?

1. “The great object of our aim from the beginning has been to make this Establishment the most eminent in the United States.”

2. “…as new discoveries are made, new truth discovered and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”

3. “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

4. “This institution of my native state, the hobby of my old age, will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind, to explore and expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation.”

5. “…Though you cannot see, when you take one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth, in the easiest manner possible. . . An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second.”

6. “It is pleasant for those who have just escaped threatened shipwreck, to hail one another when landed in unexpected safety.”


A. UVA faculty who are also alumni, in a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell on Thursday, June 21.

B. Faculty Senate Chair George Cohen, in a statement delivered before the emergency meeting of the Board on Tuesday, June 26.

C. Governor Bob McDonnell, in a letter to the Board of Visitors, Friday, June 22.

D. Rector Helen Dragas, in the initial press release announcing Sullivan’s resignation sent out Sunday, June 10.

E. President Teresa Sullivan, in a statement to the Board of Visitors at the start of its marathon closed session June 18.

F. President Sullivan, in her statement on the Rotunda steps on Tuesday, June 26.


Answers: 1. (D); 2. (E); 3. (A); 4. (C); 5. (B); 6. (F)

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