Robot football game to be held

first_imgThis year’s Blue and Gold football game weekend will have more than just one football game for some students. The Engineering Department will host its second annual Collegiate Mechatronic Football Competition at Stepan Center on April 23.Jim Schmiedeler, associate professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, said the competition is a one-hour football game between robots built by students.Schmeideler said the competition is part of a 13-week effort to design, build, test and demonstrate the skills of the robots.  “The students have done a terrific job. They have progressed with the help of input from last year’s competition,” Schmeideler said.  The students officially began the design portion of the project in January and started manufacturing and testing their robots after Spring Break, Schmiedeler said.“The students have been driving prototype robots around the halls of Fitzpatrick for a while now, and they’ve been outside kicking field goals and throwing passes,” Schmiedeler said. This is the program’s second official year of competition. “The robots have tackle sensors that light up to indicate a tackle,” Schmiedeler said. “Essentially it shows how hard one robot slams into another.” “Alumni from the Department were interested in sponsoring the event,” Schmiedeler said. “They want to evaluate the success of the competition here at Notre Dame and investigate the possibilities of intercollegiate competition.” While the outcome of the game is important for the trophy, Schmeideler said the grade students receive is based on a test that takes place the week before. The robots go through a series of tests to evaluate their abilities from controllability to kicking and throwing accuracy. center_img The event was started by a Notre Dame alumnus in honor of his son, Brian Hederman, who was a student in the Engineering Department. Hederman, who passed away before he graduated, came up with the idea of a football-playing robot. “Last year’s game had an exciting finish,” Schmiedeler said. “The Blue team fumbled on a drive to the end zone with no time left that would have won them the game. The fans and students were jumping and cheering. It was an intense game.” Students control the robots from the sidelines, and two students are allowed on the field to control the offense.  Also on the field are three referees from RecSports.Motorola sponsors the event, Schmiedeler said. The robots play an adapted version of football in which each team has eight players, and they play on a smaller field with a souvenir-sized football. A completed pass is the quarterback throwing the ball and hitting the receiver, who doesn’t necessarily have to catch the ball to complete the pass.  “We’ve invited faculty and students from other universities to promote the idea of a possible league someday,” Schmeidler said. “We would love to have Notre Dame earn a national title in Collegiate Mechatronic Football.”last_img read more

Saint Mary’s professor analyzes primary

first_imgJust across the state line, the Michigan Republican presidential primary took center stage as candidates battled for the state’s delegates Tuesday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum emerged as the leading candidates in a tight Tuesday primary, in which Romney edged out Santorum with 41.1 percent of the reported votes to Santorum’s 37.9 percent, according to an Associated Press poll. Sean Savage, professor of political science at Saint Mary’s, said Romney and Santorum’s battle for the lead was a close call. “At the end of last week, according to a composite of different polls, Santorum was ahead by 0.08 percent,” Savage said. “It was that close.” Savage said the economy and the candidates’ electability against President Barack Obama significantly influenced voters’ opinions.  “Certainly the economy was a major issue with the impact it has had on Detroit and the auto industry,” Savage said. “According to exit polls, voters wanted someone who had business and administrative experience [in the private sector], but people also voted for who they thought would be able to beat President Obama, and that was Romney.” Santorum, however, maintained a solid base of loyal conservatives supporters, Savage said. “According to polls from the primary, Santorum had the most support from labor union members, blue-collar workers, evangelicals, voters who saw abortion as the biggest issue and the more loyal conservatives,” Savage said.  Savage said Romney’s level of education and affluence appealed to voters.  Despite the close nature of the race, Savage said a few intangible factors contributed to Romney’s victory, including his personal connection to the state of Michigan.  “Romney grew up in Michigan, and his father [George Romney] had been governor,” Savage said. “And even though Romney lost overall to McCain in the 2008 [primary] election, he won Michigan.” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed Romney, who led a more organized campaign in Michigan than Santorum, Savage said.  “Santorum would hold rallies and there would be people cheering, but then there was no follow-up with his supporters,” Savage said. “There was no organized way of collecting names, emails and numbers to continue to encourage their support, but Romney’s campaign did not have such organizational problems.” While Romney’s close win in Michigan is influential, Savage said it will not determine who wins the GOP nomination, especially because the candidates still face a long road until the Republican National Convention in August. “Michigan was a close race and a good win for Romney,” Savage said. “However, Romney only has 14 percent of the necessary delegates for the nomination, so there is still a long road ahead.”last_img read more

DPAC to host election debate

first_imgThree candidates for Indiana governor will take the stage at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on Oct. 17 for the second of three scheduled gubernatorial debates, the University announced Tuesday in a press release. Democrat John Gregg, Republican Mike Pence and Libertarian Rupert Boneham are slated to appear at the debate, where they will field questions submitted in advance by Indiana residents, the release stated. Timothy Sexton, associate vice president for public affairs, said in the statement the debate would be an extension of the University’s campus engagement efforts. “One of the great benefits that a university offers to its community is to bring prominent people to campus for lectures and other presentations that are open to the public,” Sexton said. “We have always tried to do that here at Notre Dame with political, business, religious, educational and other leaders, and we are certainly happy to be selected to host one of the gubernatorial debates this fall.” The debate will be streamed live from the Indiana Debate Commission’s website, where the commission will also be accepting question submissions, the release stated. The two other gubernatorial debates will take place on Oct. 10 in Zionsville and Oct. 25 in Fort Wayne.last_img read more

SMC walks to fight hunger

first_imgSaint Mary’s asked students o stop local and global hunger this weekend by supporting the annual St. Joseph County CROP Hunger Walk. More than 400 walkers and donors, including students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross, participated in the walk in Howard Park. Saint Mary’s Learning Tree Director Jayne Fogle said the walk represents a community-wide benefit sponsored by Church World Services to raise funds in an effort to end hunger and poverty at home and around the world. “We were thrilled when Saint Mary’s came on board. That worked out really great,” Fogle said. “It’s my passion.  I get so excited every time. I go out there and [I’m like], ‘let’s go.’ I know the need is great, and if it’s one little thing to do to help out, I’ll do it.” The CROP Walk, an acronym that stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, takes place in different counties throughout the country. Walk donors may designate gifts to other approved international hunger-fighting agencies, a specialty no other charity offers, Fogle said. Fogle said 25 percent of the money goes to the local community and the rest goes to worldwide global issues. Participants had the option of walking the one-mile or four-mile route through Howard Park and downtown South Bend, Fogle said. Participants in the walk represent various religious affiliations, schools, and organizations in the area.   Endorsed as a benefit in which neighbors, families, and even pets can walk together to take a stand against hunger and poverty in the world, the event’s interfaith component contributes to the idea and mission of “Ending Hunger One Step At A Time” as a community, Fogle said. “It’s a fun event because it’s a nice time being out, the energy keeps coming, and all denominations [are included].  In the past we’ve had Christians, but we’ve also had [different faiths] and different organizations in the community,” Fogle said.   This year marks the CROP Hunger Walk’s 66th nationwide anniversary and its 31st in St. Joseph County, Fogle said. She said she has been on the county recruiting committee since 2001. Saint Mary’s Social Work Club President Natalie Stoerger and Vice President Corinna Martinez joined Fogle as Saint Mary’s representatives. Stoerger said participating resonated with the event’s motto, “We walk because they walk.” “People do have to actually have to walk to get food and water,” she said. “I just think there’s a need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes [and] having that whole reflection through the walk and knowing that Saint Mary’s gave some money towards this good cause. It’s a really good volunteering program, and with Jayne [Fogle], we have a really good connection with her church and the community.” The integration of the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame student bodies with the outside South Bend public is a significant factor of their participation in Sunday’s event, Stoerger said. “What I want to come across to the students here at Saint Mary’s is that there’s a community outside of our bubble of Notre Dame, Indiana,” she said. “I think we get so wrapped up in everything that’s happening here which is wonderful, but there’s also lots of different opportunities, cultures, and lots of other people outside in South Bend.” Stoerger said she hopes the College’s involvement with the walk will continue and she encourages all students to give of themselves and become active members in their environment.   “If Saint Mary’s can get more involved with the community, it will help out the community grow in a better way,” she said. “There is a stigma out in South Bend of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s; we’re put on a pedestal. It’s true, but it saddens me because I feel we don’t do enough for the community. I feel there’s a dividing line where we’re at. I even hear from community members [that they] feel there’s not a lot of involvement and not a lot of people caring, which is sad, but somehow that’s still shadowed by the stigma of the colleges.” She said college provides the perfect environment to try getting involved with new and different things. “Some time in your life you have to step out of your comfort zone, and why not do it when you’re in college?” Stoerger said. “When you’re out in South Bend, you find out that people are just people, but when you really take the time to get to know someone, you realize that we’re not that different.” CROP Hunger Walk donations will continue to be collected through the online database, www.crophungerwalk.orgsouthbendin, through Oct. 11.last_img read more

Twelve-hour vigil to raise awareness for Syria

first_imgStudents will pledge to give up their shut-eye this Friday to learn about the crisis in Syria, to raise money to help Catholic Relief Services (CRS) bring aid to those in and around Syria and to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering, junior Sharia Smith said.Sleepless for Syria, an event organized by the Solidarity with Syria Coalition, will take place from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. The Solidarity with Syria Coalition is a committee comprised of representatives from various student organizations and individual members.“I think what’s so cool about what we’re working on right now is that this was something started by Matt, myself and other students just at the beginning of the year when we really realized that this was an issue that was striking a chord with us and that we were concerned with,” Smith said.Smith said the Solidarity with Syria Coalition provides its members with an opportunity to have conversations about the pressing issues affecting Syria and enables them to act through the planning committee.Junior Matthew Caponigro said since the unrest began in 2011, the Syrian civil war has killed over 140,000 people, stranded over 4.5 million Syrians without homes inside the country and forced over 2.5 million refugees to flee to countries surrounding Syria. Factions from both the government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes, consequently affecting Syria’s innocent civilians caught in crossfire, he said.An inter-faith prayer will kick off the night, Caponigro said. He said Fr. Daniel Groody, associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality, and Imam Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic studies and peace building at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, will offer prayers to commence the vigil.Caponigro said Groody also will speak about some of his experiences on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation that observed the situation of Syrian refugees in fall 2012.Caponigro said a living rosary will take place at midnight, during which participants will hold candles to represent each bead and place the lit candles on the ground at the front of the group to represent the group’s continued prayers as the participants enter an hour of silence.Throughout the night, hourly reflections will feature guest speakers and their stories, as well as readings from the Bible and the Quran that pertain to traveling populations and displaced citizens, Caponigro said.Manuel Rocha, a senior involved with GlobeMed, will talk about of some of the health issues in refugee camps that plague Syrian refugees in particular, Caponigro said.Caponigro said Jennifer Betz, the Midwest coordinator for CRS, will present on the organization and its work with refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, including the education programs they offer displaced children and the medical services they provide.The event will also feature musical performances from various artists such as Ameer Armaly, a graduate student who will play the traditional Levantine oud, which is a precursor to the guitar, Caponigro said. He said Notre Dame alumnus and local singer-songwriter Peter J. Hochstedler will also be performing during Sleepless for Syria.The Center for Social Concerns, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Campus Ministry, World Hunger Coalition, Peace Fellowship ND, Human Rights ND, Red Cross Club of ND, GlobeMed, CRS Student Ambassadors, St. Edward’s Hall, Duncan Hall, Pasquerilla West Hall, Keough Hall and Sorin College are co-sponsoring the event.Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine will provide food for the benefit dinner, which will include midardara, hummus, falafel and baba ghanoush, Smith said. Studebagels will also provide breakfast the next morning, she added.Smith said Sleepless for Syria not only brings the Notre Dame community together but also Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College and the entire South Bend community to stand in solidarity with Syrians.Caponigro said people can donate either at the event or online through Notre Dame’s online student shop. He said the goal of Sleepless for Syria is to raise at least $1,500.The planning committee was able to cover all the operating costs due to the support of the many co-sponsors and local businesses, so every penny earned will go towards the CRS, Caponigro said. Smith said the event had a large potential for fundraising and for drawing attention to the crisis.“Every drop in the bucket counts; when we pool it together it really makes an impact,” Smith said. “It gives me hope that my one little act can join with everyone else’s.”Tags: Center for Social Concerns, GlobeMed, Kellogg Institute, Kroc Institute, Sleepless for Syria, solidarity, Syrialast_img read more

Professor explores effectiveness of fair trade

first_imgAs part of the Kellogg Institute’s lecture series, professor of economics and international studies Bruce Wydick from the University of San Francisco gave a talk titled “Does Fair Trade Coffee Work? The Taste of Many Mountains, a Novel about Fair Trade Coffee, Globalization and the Poor” on Tuesday afternoon at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.The lecture addressed the theme of globalization and poverty in developing nations with particular emphasis on the fair trade coffee movement and Wydick’s novel on the topic.Noting the contrast between the efforts of wealthy countries and the results of poverty alleviation efforts, Wydick said “what makes us feel good may not be what they need at all” and posed the question “Do we want to help the poor or just feel better in the belief that we have helped the poor?” To illustrate this point, Wydick asked the audience to think of three consumer products they bought for themselves and three donations or consumer choices they made to help the poor and to what extent they had thought about their effectiveness.“We often do not make the same effort to investigate if things like Tom’s shoes or fair trade coffee worked well as we do with our own personal products,” he said.Wydick spoke about aid programs that seem to have no beneficial effect and those that do. He said, “programs like one laptop for every child, free shoes and micro finance have been shown by randomized control trials to have no effect.” In contrast, “mosquito bed nets, unconditional cash grants and de-worming programs are the most effective.”Wydick addressed the paradox between the failure of microfinance and the success of unconditional cash grants.“Ten years ago, everyone thought microfinance was a silver bullet,” he said.However, Wydick said cash grants succeed because they increase the purchasing power of poor families.Turning to the issue of fair trade coffee, a system intended to help poor farmers by selling coffee at a guaranteed price, Wydick listed 10 reasons why the well-intentioned program does not work.“It encourages people to grow more coffee, lowering prices and farmers’ profits. The flawed design of the system undermines its own benefits; the cost of certification for fair trade standards alone can eliminate the price advantage,” he said.Wydick also cited a study that found the net income of fair trade farmers did not change over 14 years. He said fair trade incentivizes the use of poor-quality beans and “the cost of environmental sustainability maintained by the system is imposed on the poor.”“It does not help the poorest growers” Wydick said, pointing to how fair trade focuses on Latin America but largely ignores destitute areas of Africa.He said fair trade lacks transparency and funding often goes to administrative costs and dubious projects.“It is inefficient at transferring consumer goodwill to coffee growers, and it addresses superficial poverty issues instead of root causes,” he said.He said there is a stark contrast between the marketing, on which fair trade spends millions, and its measured impact, and said “direct trade is arguable better for the poor than fair trade.”Tags: Bruce Wydick, fair trade coffee, Hesburgh Center for International Studies, Kellogg Institute, povertylast_img read more

Construction mishap causes Wi-Fi outage at SMC

first_imgOn Saturday, Saint Mary’s campus had a major systems outage that started at approximately 8:40 a.m. when Internet fiber cables were cut downtown near Memorial Hospital.According to an email sent to students on Sunday afternoon, during some construction a crew member cut through a large bundle of dark fiber that severed Internet service to many customers.Repair began around 5:30 p.m. Saturday to splice the cables back together and service was restored around 12:15 p.m. Sunday.Chief Information Officer Michael Boehm apologized for the inconvenience to students in an email after the outage.Boehm said in the email, “We attempted to send out updates via email to our user community over the last 24 hours but due the Internet outage not all users got the updates.”Senior Torie Otteson said she realized the Internet was out on Saturday morning before the game when she tried to download her ticket for the Navy game.After the game, Otteson said she tried to work on midterm assignments but the outage hindered her ability to access readings on BlackBoard and research for two papers due next week.“I would say I lost approximately 5 hours of work time,” she said.Otteson said she understands that the Wi-Fi outage was out of the Saint Mary’s IT department’s control.“I still wish they would have some sort of backup to help assuage issues like this in the future,” she said. “We live in the 21st century, and it is impossible now to do basically anything without Internet connection.”According to an email sent to students, the department of information technology will continue to monitor the service over the next several days to ensure things continue to work as expected.Tags: IT, saint mary’s, systems outage, wi-fi outagelast_img read more

Encounter South Bend plans to give students a different perspective

first_imgThis upcoming Friday, instead of staying in their dorms to study, students at Saint Mary’s have the opportunity to engage in the South Bend community. The Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) has organized buses to take students to multiple locations including an urban farm, a pay-it-forward coffee shop, and more.“At the Office we see as our mission as engaging, connecting and serving,” OCSE director Rebekah DeLine said. “The Encounter helps by engaging our students in the community — generally on a specific theme — connecting them to organizations doing amazing work, and then ultimately we hope that students will go back out into the community and serve. In addition, Encounters enable us to look more deeply at societal and root causes, which sometimes a day of service will not. So, this particular Encounter scheduled for Friday will allow us to look deeply at how our consumerist culture can be harmful to the environment and even our own city, and how we can counter that through the buying power that we have.”This trip is set to challenge those who attend to rethink how they live, work and play, and how those things make an impact on the world, according to the flyer. This event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, where attendees will go from place to place. Lunch, coffee, dessert and transportation will all be provided.“It is important to go to events that involve the community so you can immerse yourself in the culture of that area and you can become a well-rounded adult,” junior Libbey Tierney said. “Being involved in the community is essential for becoming a well-rounded adult in some ways because it shows you things that you may have never seen before.”Getting involved in the surrounding community is an important goal for both Saint Mary’s and OCSE. They both work in combination to give students the opportunity to expand their grasp on events outside the campus.“It is a part of our mission at Saint Mary’s [to engage in opportunities like those offered by OCSE],” DeLine said. “It is a part of the core values, community and justice, that we hold dear. We feel, as the mission statement says, that the OCSE is core to promoting a life of ‘social responsibility’ and responding ‘to the complex needs and challenges of the contemporary world.’ Furthermore, from a strictly practical sense, being in the community, engaging with service and serving with our community partners provides a skill set and opportunity for growth that’s not readily available in just a classroom setting.”To register for the event, students can email [email protected] or use the QR code that can be found on numerous posters throughout Saint Mary’s campus. Other events like this run by OCSE can be found on the organization’s Facebook and Instagram updates or through weekly updates at their email above.Tags: encounter south bend, Office of Civic and Social Engagementlast_img read more

Senate hears presentations on listening sessions, meal plan restructuring

first_imgAt its weekly meeting, the Notre Dame student senate approved the nomination of the president of The Shirt project for the upcoming year and heard presentations on both the campus listening sessions regarding sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and campus dining meal plan restructuring. As the first order of business, senior Jin Kim, student union treasurer and chairman of the Financial Management Board, read a letter nominating senior Kristin Andrejko to serve as president of The Shirt project. According to Kim’s letter, Andrejko has been a part of the Shirt Project since her freshman year and served as its president last year, as a junior. “When I spoke with Kristin, I could tell that her enthusiasm and dedication for the Shirt Project was second to none, and her work experience and accomplishments within The Shirt Project speak for themselves,” Kim said in the letter. “I believe she is more than qualified to take on this role, and I have no doubt that she will lead The Shirt Project to deliver yet another record-breaking year.” Andrejko was approved by the senate unanimously for the position. Sophomore and director of faith and service for student government Aaron Benavides then presented to the senate about the listening sessions for students regarding the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The sessions are being put on by the Campus Engagement Task Force, a nine-member group chaired by vice president for mission engagement and church affairs Fr. Gerry Olinger and associate law professor Jennifer Mason McAward. “Essentially, our duty is to facilitate dialogue and listen to the observations, thoughts and recommendations of different members of the Notre Dame community in regards to the crisis in the Catholic Church right now,” Benavides said. “What we’re really focusing on is what Notre Dame itself can and should be doing as a Catholic institution of higher learning.”Benavides stressed Notre Dame’s duty as a Catholic school to take action in a time that is difficult for members of the Catholic Church. “What’s going on in the church right now is incredibly upsetting, and I think that we, being here at the University of Notre Dame, have a special honor being here, but also a duty to help in whatever way we can,” Benavides said. The task force is hosting seven listening sessions in total. Five of the discussions are solely for faculty and staff, but two of the sessions, one held on Monday, Nov. 5 and the other Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in 720 Corbett Hall, are for students, who are encouraged to attend. Following Benavides, junior Eduardo Luna, co-director of student life, gave a presentation regarding the University’s efforts to restructure the campus dining meal plans. Luna’s presentation included statistics about the use and efficiency of the dining halls on Notre Dame’s campus. The University currently offers three on-campus meal plans: the Blue plan, which includes 21 meals in the dining halls and no flex points; the default Gold, which includes 14 meals per week and $500 in flex points and Green, which includes 14 meals, $360 flex points and $360 Domer Dollars.According to the Notre Dame campus dining website, more than 99 percent of resident undergrads pick the default Gold Plan.Luna said the cost to the student per meal is $9.13 for the Blue Plan, $11.67 for the Gold Plan and $11.85 for the Green Plan. “The general trend is that the more meal swipes you purchase, the cheaper the meal is on average,” Luna said. Anywhere from 20,325 to 40,650 meal swipes go unused per week, Luna said. Due to the general trend of students using fewer meal swipes, Notre Dame is taking steps to reevaluate its meal plans and holding focus groups regarding this restructuring in order to gather student input. There are several possible options for changing the meal plans that have been proposed, including reducing the meal swipes, switching to a system with only flex points, switching to a meal block system, making the meal swipes unlimited and removing late lunch. Luna said making meal swipes unlimited is the option he prefers. “The pro is that it eliminates the possibility of wasting swipes. Students are wasting a lot of swipes at the dining hall,” Luna said. “I think if overall swipe usage goes up, then what’s going to end up happening is the food budget will go up and the overall quality and variety of food go up.” Tags: Campus DIning, Campus Engagement Task Force, campus meal plan, ND student senate, Senate, sex abuse crisis, The Shirtlast_img read more

Scholars discuss the Thomas Jefferson conundrum, exploring his thoughts on slavery, race

first_imgCourtesy of Chris Parker Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf speak at Notre Dame Law School on Thursday about Thomas Jefferson and his legacy, an event that took place as part of Walk the Walk Week.Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, a professor at Harvard University and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, respectively, considered this question in a Thursday lecture. Part of Walk the Walk Week, the lecture was titled “Thomas Jefferson, Race, Slavery, and the Problem of American Nationhood.”The professors are preeminent Jefferson scholars and recently co-wrote a book about the third president. The event took place at the Notre Dame Law School.Onuf introduced this question by first laying out the problematic nature of Jefferson’s position in history.“It is common for pundits to talk about our Jeffersonian democracy, as if that’s a special characteristic of our democracy that makes it unique — you might even say exceptional,” Onuf said. “And then we have to account the dilemma that he wasn’t a perfect guy. He was — we would say now — a racist. No department in the country [now] would hire him.”The Jefferson conundrum has implications about American national identity, Onuf said.“What is it about this moment that makes Thomas Jefferson such a problematic figure? He’s somebody we identify with America,” he said. “There’s a famous … quotation from one of the first great, popular biographies of Jefferson: ‘if Jefferson is right, America is right … If Jefferson is wrong —and that’s what we think about him now — what does that say about us, and where do we go on from here?”Gordon-Reed said Jefferson is unique in that he is a much-discussed Founding Father whose reputation has had a number of peaks and valleys. Ultimately, she said she thinks his complicated life offers an effective way to frame conversations on the founding.“He’s a figure — not like Hamilton, Hamilton was in eclipse until [Lin-Manuel Miranda] brought him back — Jefferson is up and down,” Gordon-Reed said. “It’s hard right now in an era when we’re thinking about inclusion in history, different people’s stories, to figure out what we do with him. The interesting thing to me about it is his life gives us an opportunity to have that kind of discussion in ways that, [with] other members of the founding generation, you can’t do that. You can think about politics, you can think about slavery, you can think about race all through this particular person’s life.”Gordon-Reed said she thinks Jefferson has returned to the fore as a result of the country’s present-day political environment. Though Jefferson did not have a hand in writing the Constitution, he set some important standards with the Declaration of Independence, she said.“We’re sort of in a moment of constitutional crisis now, and people think about the founders — and Jefferson in particular — in a particular kind of way,” she said. “… I’m thinking, ‘what was this all for?’ They put this thing in motion and here we are now, at this particular moment trying to decide what does American democracy, what does the American republic mean in this situation?”Though Onuf said one of Jefferson’s accomplishments in the Declaration of Independence was to create a sense of American peoplehood, the two scholars said Jefferson could not conceptualize a country where black and white people lived together.For his part, he supported the emancipation of slaves but thought they should all be “expatriated” to Africa. These facts present a sobering reality about American national identity, especially as the consensus on what it means to be American has frayed.“The confidence existed because largely one voice was being heard. The difficulty we have now is people are saying, ‘yes, we are a people,’” Gordon-Reed said. “But other people — African-Americans, other groups who do not feel that they were included before — now are beginning to talk about some of the terms of that peoplehood … that’s caused much more fracturing.”Jefferson’s situation in life informed many of his ideas. He came from a family where the men had children with enslaved women. It is widely accepted that the third president himself fathered six children with his slave Sally Hemings, and Gordon-Reed said his wife had half-black siblings. She also said that one of the reasons these issues are perpetually brought up in relation to Jefferson is he wrote all of his thoughts down, leaving a record to attack.“The more I think about this … his personal circumstances had to determine how he saw this,” Gordon-Reed said. “It’s very often when people who have a personal issue — some of the people who are the most vocal in talking about things, whether it’s same-sex sexuality, cross-race sexuality — why are they talking about it? Why is he writing about this? I’ve never had [James] Madison on mixing races. We don’t have George Washington on mixing race … but as far as we know, none of those people were married to people who had half-black siblings living in their house.”Onuf added that the experience of living through the Revolutionary War also had an effect on Jefferson’s thoughts. Particularly, Onuf speculated that the author of the Declaration of Independence was probably worried about a slave revolt.“In revolutionary times, when the future is radically uncertain, you have to be prepared for the next war,” he said. “And another front of that war very reasonably could be — and would be, in the War of 1812 and in other moments [like] 1811 in Louisiana — it could be that enslaved people constitute the biggest threat.”For her part, Gordon-Reed said slaves could not be blamed for harboring rebellious thoughts.“And why wouldn’t they? How could black people love a country that wasn’t their own? That had treated them the way they had been treated? But also that they had not voluntarily come to,” she said. “The idea of black people going back to Africa — that’s the equivalent of a racial epithet now, saying that — but for a person who said ‘these people did not come voluntarily, and we’ve treated them badly. Why would they love us? How could they be in a relationship of community and trust in that situation?’ He’s basically saying, ‘I wouldn’t do that.’”Gordon-Reed also noted some hypocrisy with respect to Jefferson, noting that modern American society chastises him for his ideas when the country still continues to be racially separated.“What we’re asking him to do is something we haven’t done,” she said. “It would be impossible for Jefferson … certainly as a political matter, to say that the answer to all of this is for black people and white people to become one people, as a family. That is to say ‘mix.’ That is something that we don’t do. To think that somebody born in 1743 is going to have that as an idea … it’s patting ourselves on the back. It’s being unrealistic. It’s not anything I think he could have contemplated doing.”As a man of the Enlightenment, Jefferson had a belief that things would constantly improve — that they would get “better and better,” Gordon-Reed said — and that he thought each generation would have to renew America in some way. Paradoxically, the fight for belonging on behalf of group’s that Jefferson marginalized has fulfilled that prophecy to some degree, Onuf said.“The answer to Thomas Jefferson is the refusal of people to go,” he said. “Their insistence that they were American. ’African-American’ — the hyphen is crucial. The assertion of belonging, to be attached to a place … these people are not going. They are us.”Tags: race, slavery, Thomas Jefferson, Walk the Walk Week As the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson has always occupied a high place in the American pantheon.But Jefferson is also a complicated and controversial figure in American life: how can the United States reconcile the man’s words — “all men are created equal” — with the reality that he owned slaves and espoused ideas that today would be considered racist?last_img read more