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Gilbert du Motier Lafayette

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Lafayette is a young man of royal birth, with liberal politics and what Jefferson later called "a canine appetite for fame." Someone said he was "a statue in search of a pedestal." But he was intoxicated with, [had] a rather theoretical love of, liberty. It was theoretical because liberty wasn't known to many Europeans. [Lafayette] was a great romantic and he fell in love with America, the concept of America that the French had. This wild new world where you could start the world over, to use Tom Paine's phrase.
--
Richard Norton Smith, quoted in Chronicle of the Revolution at PBS

 
Gilbert du Motier Lafayette

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History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by liberty and the author of liberty. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength tested, but not weary we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

 
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Lafayette avoided the factions jealous of Washington because he recognized that Washington was the Revolution and that should he be reduced in power or replaced, the whole cause would collapse. ... Washington was a shrewd judge of character and never would have warmed to Lafayette if he had been only a superficial ingratiating romantic.
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Gilbert du Motier Lafayette
 

Since September 11, 2001, I have often thought that perhaps it was fortunate for the world that the attackers targeted the World Trade Center instead of the Statue of Liberty, for if they had destroyed our sacred symbol of democracy I fear we as Americans would have been unable to keep ourselves from indulging in paroxysms of revenge of a sort the world has never seen before. If that had happened, it would have befouled the meaning of the Statue of Liberty beyond any hope of subsequent redemption -- if there were any people left to care. I have learned from my students that this upsetting thought of mine is subject to several unfortunate misconstruals, so let me expand on it to ward them off. The killing of thousands of innocents in the World Trade Center was a heinous crime, much more evil than the destruction of the Statue of Liberty would have been. And, yes, the World Trade Center was a much more appropriate symbol of al Qaeda's wrath than the Statue of Liberty would have been, but for that very reason it didn't mean as much, as a symbol, to us. It was Mammon and Plutocrats and Globalization, not Lady Liberty. I do suspect that the fury with which Americans would have responded to the unspeakable defilement of our cherished national symbol, the purest image of our aspirations as a democracy, would have made a sane and measured response extraordinarily difficult. This is the great danger of symbols -- they can become too "sacred". An important task for religious people of all faiths in the twenty-first century will be spreading the conviction that there are no acts more dishonorable than harming "infidels" of one stripe or another for "disrespecting" a flag, a cross, a holy text.

 
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It's reported that John Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives." History tells us, however, that Jefferson had died shortly before John Adams passed away. But Adams was right. All of us stand in tribute to the truth of those words. We proclaim it again and again with our dedication to keeping this a land of liberty and justice for all, and through our deeds and actions, to ensure that this country remains a bastion of freedom, the last best hope for mankind. As long as a love of liberty is emblazoned on our hearts, Jefferson lives.

 
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