On the last day of Black History Month, explore the true meaning of American equality.
In April of 1962, President Kennedy welcomed each of the Nobel Prize winners from the Western Hemisphere to the White House as a celebration of intellectual achievement. The President remarked “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Indeed, Thomas Jefferson was an intellectual genius and his life symbolizes the duality of the ideal versus the practical. In 1776, Jefferson would write 5 words that would change the course of human affairs forever. “All men are created equal”. This statement was declared to be self evident, as even to a slave owner like Jefferson it was obvious that all human beings are morally equivalent. Although the practical meaning and application of equality becomes complex when applied in a system of legality and commerce, the ideal of moral equality in America is the cornerstone of what makes us special.
The great American Civil War would unfold to clarify the complexity of equality and states rights, and it was in the heart of the former Confederacy capital city of Richmond, VA that a young mother would boldly interpret the words of Jefferson and set in course the life of one of America’s greatest modern heroes. Beulah Wilder eclipsed all of the legal debate about the meaning of Jefferson’s declaration of moral equivalency when her young son inquired about its true meaning. When the young man first read of Jefferson’s statement of equality, he asked his mother what it meant. Ms. Wilder explained that although they were living in a segregated Richmond the boy could accomplish anything he put his mind to, and he would triumph through adversity as long as he understood it was his right to rise to his ability. In a true journey of heroic proportions, this young boy would traverse through the countryside of the Commonwealth of Virginia, across the same majestic landscape as a young George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. This journey would culminate with Beulah’s son sitting at the head of the antique table in the Dining Room of the Governors Mansion, as the newly elected 66th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, under portraits of Washington and Jefferson themselves. For this occasion Governor Wilder was welcoming to the mansion another triumph of moral equality, Arthur Ashe, the worlds most accomplished American mens tennis player of that era. The men paused to reflect on the fact that they were both born into a segregated society, where they were cut off from mainstream Richmond. They were now dining from the ultimate insiders position at the peak of power from the Capitol Square of Virginia, as two of the most accomplished African American men in the history of our Republic.
Each year Power Source shares with our Washington Life readers a unique perspective at the closing of Black History Month. Let us remember the common sense wisdom of Beulah Wilder. Her interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s declaration of equality propelled her son to occupy the office of Governor once held by Jefferson himself. Seventeen years before the phenomenal rise of Barack Obama the nation watched in awe as the Commonwealth elected Beulah’s son the first African American Governor in modern times. Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League commented “He is the Jackie Robinson of American politics.” Thomas Hart, Jr. recalled the pride his mother had as their family waited for hours in the freezing cold at the inauguration on January 13, 1990 in Richmond, where thousands flocked from across the nation to witness the historic moment. Power Source salutes Beulah Wilder as an American hero for her example of ignoring the noise of the moment and instead focusing on the idealism that the founding fathers sought to capture. Beulah’s interpretation of equality encapsulates the true meaning of American liberty.
“The American idea is unique in world history because it is founded on a set of documented principles that reach beyond the set of circumstances one is born into. Have we always lived up to our ideals? No, however we must constantly remember that many before us have fought and died to preserve the ideas we seek to live by. America’s power in the world must move beyond military and financial might to demonstrate the power of moral ambition.” -The Honorable Douglas Wilder, 66th Governor of Virginia, son of Beulah & Robert Wilder. As told to Power Source, Monday February 24th Two Thousand and Fourteen.
Power Source is an insider’s view of power networks and activities that contribute to the continued dominance of our nation’s ideals, institutions and individuals. Ms. Doucette has privately orchestrated projects for the world’s most influential individuals, celebrated personalities, and corporations. Based in Washington D.C., Ms. Doucette is a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org