Strength of conviction alone isn't enough

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According to historians, Thomas Jefferson rarely made speeches in public. He had a soft, high-pitched voice, and perhaps, a slight stutter. When he was sworn in as our third president, many people in the room couldn't hear his speech and had to read it in the newspaper the following day. He was, however, a world-class listener.

In Jon Meacham's new book, "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power," he discusses how Jefferson could make whoever he was talking with feel like he/she was a close, personal friend and what he/she was saying was really important to him -- even when he didn't agree with what was said.

Meacham wrote that, "Everyone wants to believe that what they have to say is fascinating, illuminating, and possibly even epochal." And Jefferson could make whoever he was talking to feel that way.

That sentence made me think of many of your newspaper's serial letter writers who regularly write about subjects such as our country's history and politics, their religion, global warming, social issues like abortion or gay marriage or "our values."

The greatest thing about America, still the great "melting pot," is that we are all free to think and believe what we want and make our own choices, in part thanks to Jefferson's strong belief in public education and separating religion and government.

The reason Meacham's quote made me think of some of your serial letter writers is that, like me, of course, they are neither fascinating, illuminating or epochal, and just because they feel so strongly about something doesn't make them bearers of universal truths.

Tim Boutz

Walla Walla

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