“Well class, that wraps it up for this morning. Your assignment is to write a thousand word essay on the use of conflict in writing.”
Professor Mac’s class shut their books and filed out the door. Brenda lingered, timing it so she’d be the last to leave.
“Professor, can I talk with you a minute?”
Dr. Mac looked up from the paper he was grading. “Sure Brenda, how can I
“Well…I’ve changed my major. I want to pursue a career in politics so I think I need to drop out of creative writing.”
Professor Mac rested his chin on his knuckles, looked her in the eye and smiled.
“Do I hear aspirations of being the first female president?”
“I wouldn’t go that far. I’m thinking more about the local or state level.”
“I take it you’re quite serious about this?”
“Yes sir, I can’t think of anything else right now.”
“And you don’t see any need for creative writing?”
“Well no, not really.”
Professor Mac leaned back in his chair. “I’m glad Thomas Jefferson didn’t think that way.”
Brenda sat down. “I know Thomas Jefferson was into politics, but what did he have to do with creative writing?”
“History tells us that Jefferson locked himself away for three days to draft one of the most important documents in our History-”
“The Declaration of Independence.”
“Correct.” Professor Mac leaned forward. “At that time one group wanted to break all ties with the British government – all out war. The other saw the need to appease the British and live in peace. Jefferson’s goal became the uniting of these two factions… guess what he used.”
Brenda smiled and nodded her head. “Creative writing.”
“I’ll say. He created a document that expressed the exact rationale for choosing war over peace, predicated on the American’s desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You see, Jefferson realized that the Colonies had to suffer the cruelty of war before experiencing a lasting peace.”
“So you’re saying I can be a politician and a writer at the same time.”
“Exactly. Five men composed the committee to draft the document: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman.”
“But professor, if there were five of them, why was Jefferson the only writer?”
“John Adams had more experience, but he also had a formal, ponderous writing style. He was the committee’s second choice but he said, ‘I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise… you can write ten times better than I can.’ So the burden fell on Jefferson.”
“From what I know of Benjamin Franklin, if he got the job, he’d have thrown in some jokes to liven it up,” Brenda said.
Professor Mac chuckled. “That wouldn’t surprise me… by the way, do you think they took his original manuscript as is?”
“From what you’ve taught me so far, I’d have to say that they did some editing.”
“Right on. Out of respect for their experience, he submitted it to Franklin and Adams first, to get their input. Each suggested a few changes here and there. Then, revision in hand, he submitted it to the committee. From there it went to Congress.”
“How did that go?”
“Not as well as Jefferson hoped. Before they finished, Congress deleted about a quarter of the original document.”
“You know, that doesn’t really surprise me.”
“Oh, Why not?”
“Because one of the first things you taught us was that we can cut at least a third of our story without changing it… I guess Jefferson should have been pleased with only a quarter.”
“I take that as a compliment, but we’ve gotten off track. To get back to our original conversation, the politician required creative writing skills to encourage a peace loving people to commit themselves to something nobody wanted – war.”
“Well professor, you’ve done the opposite for me.”
“I’ve been warring with myself these past two days over what to do. Now I have a peace that I can enter politics and continue my writing career. Thanks for the help.”
“No problem. That’s why I’m here. By the way, why don’t you use your internal warfare over this conflict in your homework assignment?”
“Good idea, I can demonstrate how conflict ends in peace.”
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