Thomas Jefferson Topic of Great Americans Day Event

Mike Morlacci

posted November 17, 2015

John Hammond, PhD, discusses Thomas Jefferson at the 2015 Pitt-Johnstown Great Americans Day Citizenship Forum and Luncheon.

Thomas Jefferson was the topic of the 19th annual Pitt-Johnstown Great Americans Day Citizenship Forum and Luncheon, held at the Living-Learning Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus. 

Spectar at Great Americans Day

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar (above) welcomes the large crowd at the Great Americans Day event; Howard M. Picking (below) of the Howard M. and Adelle C. Picking Great Americans Day Forum Fund offers remarks.

Picking at Great Americans Day

More than 250 high school students, teachers, and community members attended the event featuring John Craig Hammond, PhD, an associate professor of history at Penn State University-New Kensington.

Hammond is an expert on the early American republic, and is the author of a number books and articles on the topic. Hammond began his education and Pitt-Johnstown and later earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Temple University, a master’s degree and a PhD in history at the University of Kentucky.

Jefferson is widely known as the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, and was also a scientist, diplomat, historian, philosopher, architect, founder of the University of Virginia, and primary author of Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom.

Dr. Hammond discussed Jefferson’s philosophies of government, religious liberty and education. He specifically noted that Jefferson was a tireless advocate of education.

In making his point, Dr. Hammond quoted a 1786 letter from Jefferson to Virginia judge and law professor George Wythe, which stated: “preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people.”

In concluding Jefferson’s belief in promoting the genius of America, Hammond also cited an 1818 Jefferson quote made to politician Joseph Cabell, calling for, “A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest.”

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar lauded the tradition of the University’s annual Great Americans Day event during his opening remarks, and encouraged students to find ways to give back to their communities and become involved in the political process.

"You are the next generation of great Americans," he said. "Your service to your country can begin now.”

Students and teachers from 11 regional high schools and one home-schooled student attended.

Funding for this event is provided by the Howard M. and Adelle C. Picking Great Americans Day Forum Fund.

About Great Americans Day

Since 1998, Pitt-Johnstown's annual Great Americans Day Citizenship Forum has celebrated the lives of a wide range of citizens, from Presidents and First Ladies to authors and professional athletes. Pieces of their lives provide models of civic virtue — the sacrifice of self-interest for the public good — that the founders intended to be the glue of our Republic. This series is intended to promote the American ideal of civic virtue central to citizenship and to remind us that the continued success of our society depends upon both individual and collective contributions. Prior programs focused on the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Will Rogers among many.

About Pitt-Johnstown

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, was founded in 1972 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success.