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Young Americans for Freedom event defends Thomas Jefferson’s legacy from cancel attempts

Third president is under ‘sustained assault’ from cancel culture, National Review editor warns

A conservative student group at the University of Virginia held an event to defend the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the founder of the Charlottesville public university.

Rich Lowry (right), editor-in-chief of National Review, described the “sustained assault” against Jefferson as “woke Philistinism,” ”historically illiterate,” and “heedlessly destructive.” He mentioned the recent vote from the New York City Public Design Commission to remove the statue of Jefferson from council chambers.

“It’s certainly true that Jefferson was a slave owner,” Lowry said during the October 28 event at his alma mater. “But that’s obviously not why we honor him.”

MORE: Cancel culture attempts against Thomas Jefferson

The National Review editor said Jefferson is honored because of his “achievements that still define this country today.”

Lowry challenged the opponents of Jefferson in the crowd to ask why they attended the University of Virginia if the third president is such an odious person. He then listed other Virginia universities named after slave owners, including James Madison and George Mason.

“What you are saying by your presence at the University of the Virginia,” is that someone can be flawed and even be “desperately wrong” but it’s worth it to experience the work they created, Lowry said.

The political philosophy of Jefferson laid the groundwork for the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, Lowry said.

He favored “gradual” plans to end slavery in the country, Lowry said.

Texas Congressman said Jefferson does not need a defense

Republican Congressman Chip Roy, a graduate of the University of Virginia, followed Lowry at the October 28 event. He said Jefferson was a flawed human being and does not need a defense — but what matters is the principles and ideals he espoused.

“Jefferson should never have owned a fellow human being,” Roy said. But neither should Abe Lincoln have suspended habeas corpus. Nor, Roy said, should Franklin Delano Roosevelt have put Japanese people in internment camps. Presidents are flawed human beings, Roy said.

He brought up President Kennedy and Johnson’s adulterous relationships and allegations Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized his doctoral thesis

“None of us are perfect,” the Texas Republican said. But thanks to the work of people like Jefferson, “we put our faith in the people, in principles, not in princes. That is the fundamental Jeffersonian legacy.”

“That is the defense of Jefferson, to the extent you’re going to mount one, that matters,” Roy said. “That is why we venerate him.”

“For those reasons, I will defend the Jefferson Memorial,” and other statues to him, Roy said. The Texas congressman said that the words and ideas of the Founding Fathers are worth defending — and that they “risked everything” so American society could exist.

He said the arguments of “woke 21st-century keyboard warriors” are “absurd.”

Successful event is a victory for a group often at battle with the school

The event had 150 attendees according to an email from Kara Zupkus, a spokesperson for Young America’s Foundation. The attendees packed the room, leaving it standing room only, Zupkus said.

It’s another victory for YAF at UVA, which has previously battled the student government after publicizing a video from a meeting.

The national organization published a video showing a student senator criticizing a peer, who is in the conservative student group, who took issue with a “strike” system that would punish professors for saying something deemed offensive.

The YAF club also had to enlist legal help from Alliance Defending Freedom in 2017 after the student government denied it official club status.

MORE: Mizzou students once again want Jefferson statue removed


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About the Author
College Fix contributor Ethan Connor is a student at University of Northwestern, St. Paul where he is majoring in media production. He serves as the secretary of UNW’s Turning Point USA chapter.