Thomas Jefferson visits Radford University
Bondurant Auditorium turned into a time machine on March 19, when The Thomas Jefferson Hour held a special live broadcast recording in the hall.
The radio program is the brainchild of first-person Jefferson interpreter and author Clay Jenkinson who comments on the news of the day in character as our nation’s third president.
During the day, Jenkinson hosted a special in-character event for local middle-schoolers and attended a luncheon with RU faculty and administrators.
The main event began with the program’s typical sign on, “Good day, citizens, and welcome to the Thomas Jefferson Hour, your weekly conversation with President Thomas Jefferson,” by David Horton, assistant to the dean of the College of Science and Technology.
During the program, “President Jefferson” and Jenkinson switched off in a wide-ranging conversation with Horton that touched on topics in science, politics, leadership and education. Following their conversation, Jenkinson answered audience questions in and out of character.
Frank Griffey is the student operations manager for WVRU and the president of the Broadcasting Club. He was one of many who volunteered at the recording.
"We have been planning this event since the beginning of the semester," said the senior psychology major from Marion. "We knew that Clay, who had been here before in 2003, would appeal to a lot of different people and majors on campus."
If the crowded auditorium was any indication, Griffey was right. RU students and faculty turned out for an evening with Jefferson and a unique look at how radio broadcasting works.
"Because we decided to record this broadcast in a live setting, people will see a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes in a radio program."
The audience encountered many surprises, the greatest of which was a Jeffersonian answer to a question about the place of women in the sciences by senior biology major Matti Hamed.
When Jefferson replied that women belonged in the home and should leave science to men, there was an audible negative reaction. Jenkinson stepped in to remind the crowd that Jefferson, as a man of his time, had many faults, but that society has come a long way since his lifetime.
Horton also pointed out that Hamed, who recently led a herpetological survey of RU's Selu Conservancy, was exactly the kind of woman who proved Jefferson wrong on that point.
Jenkinson and the audience grappled with the difficulties of the founding fathers, but, in the end, Jefferson’s calm disposition, masterful use of language and boundless enthusiasm for knowledge and discovery made an impression.
Del. Joseph Yost '06, M.A. '08, representing Virginia's 12th district, was one particular fan of the president in attendance. Yost is the youngest member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a body he joined at age 25 - the same age that Jefferson accomplished that feat.
"I think he had an optimism and positive outlook on life," Yost said. "He was often a calming influence on some of the other founding fathers. And he was something of a jack-of-all-trades, which I admire."
Yost was also an excited to see a recording of the radio program, which he enjoys.
"Jenkinson is one of my favorite authors on Jefferson and this is a great radio show," Yost said.
The special live broadcast recording of The Thomas Jefferson Hour was sponsored by the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, History Club, Broadcasting Club, the Scholar-Citizen Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Public Radio WVRU, the College of Education and Human Development, the Collegiate Middle Level Association and the Club Programming Committee.
To hear The Thomas Jefferson Hour, tune into WVRU every Thursday at 6 p.m.