Today I would like to share with you some personal memories and thoughts.
Growing up in southern Venezuela, I enjoyed reading a lot. My books were written in Spanish, and I did not know English back then. One of my favorite books was Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. That book is considered one of the universal masterpieces of literature.
The English version of Don Quixote was published in 1620. That got me thinking: that is more than 150 years prior to the Declaration of Independence. What are the chances that our Founding Fathers knew about Don Quixote and perhaps, just may have read the book?
I did some research and I am thrilled to share with you a few findings:
• Thomas Jefferson owned several versions of Don Quixote. He and his children used the original version of Don Quixote to learn Spanish.
• John Adams used to carry a copy of Don Quixote in his saddlebag at all times.
• Alexander Hamilton had a copy of Don Quixote that was published in Amsterdam in 1755.
• And, get this, on September 17, 1787, when the Constitution of the United States of America was finally adopted, George Washington immediately went to a bookseller and bought a copy of Don Quixote de La Mancha.
That is simply amazing!
Why were our Founding Fathers that interested in Cervantes’ novel?
I believe that our Founding Fathers were intrigued by Cervantes’ strong advocacy for political freedom, religious freedom, personal freedom, and even economic freedom.
Now, I have to admit, the Don Quixote of my youth was entertaining and funny. This old crazy man decided that he could be a knight if he just behaved like one. So he went off, wandering around on his skinny horse Rocinante, and his poor page Sancho Panza, challenging wrongdoers, getting beat up, fighting windmills, and always defending the honor of his imaginary love, Dulcinea. All that was quite comical to me.
Over the years, however, I have learned to appreciate the deeper meaning of Cervantes’ work. Now, the main reason I love Don Quixote is because of Cervantes’ approach to big ideas: justice, friendship, loyalty, and heroism. These are timeless values, as important today as they were at the turn of the 17th century.
I think deeply about these values and the challenges we are experiencing today. Our Founding Fathers thoughts and actions, like Cervantes’ Don Quixote, showed us that we do not have to accept the world as it is.
We all can be knights, if we just behave like one.
May you and all your loved ones have an enjoyable and safe 4th of July holiday.
Until next time. Cheers!