Mikhail Gorbachev

“I have been asked to comment on the forthcoming publication of Light and Liberty, edited by Eric S. Petersen. In 1993, I was pleased to take part in the celebrations of Thomas Jefferson’s 250th birthday held at the University of Virginia. Those days will forever remain etched in my memory, especially since I have a sense of deep reverence for this outstanding man. The biography of this great American has much to teach us all, not only his fellow countrymen, while his words and deeds are bound to serve as a lesson and source of inspiration for mankind.

“I admire the huge work undertaken by the author, Eric S. Petersen, who has examined countless letters and papers written by Thomas Jefferson over more than half a century. The outcome of Petersen’s painstaking research is this extraordinary book, Light and Liberty, which contains a wealth of opinions and pronouncements from the third President of the United States on such universal values as liberty, faith and the pursuit of happiness.

The book is indeed very interesting and extremely enlightening, and I am convinced that it will have a lasting effect. Today, at this critical juncture in history, when a global world is being shaped and when people are learning how to live in concert and strengthen relations with one another, Thomas Jefferson’s lessons can greatly benefit us all.

The pursuit of happiness is part and parcel of human nature. Every people in every era have the opportunity to attain this lofty goal. But nowhere is this possible unless it is consonant with the basic principles of liberty. I believe that humanity might have avoided many tragedies and calamities if we had always borne this in mind.”

Desmond Tutu

“In Light and Liberty, Eric Petersen has gathered together a volume of Thomas Jefferson’s writings which are at once deeply spiritual and practical. This inspirational book has the potential to capture the imagination and energize the present-day world to dream great dream and to do good deeds.”

Willard Sterne Randall

Author of Thomas Jefferson: A Life

“Eric Petersen has intricately and persuasively assembled a thoroughly enjoyable mosaic of Thomas Jefferson’s often inspiring, sometimes scathing, always illuminating prose. This delightful sampler of Jefferson’s wise words is certainly welcome after recent years of trashing our most idealistic and complicated Founding Father.”

Merrill D. Peterson

Professor of History (Emeritus), University of Virginia

Light and Liberty: Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness places before the reader an extraordinary distillation of the thought and wisdom of Thomas Jefferson. It captures the essential spirit of the man by creating from Jefferson’s voluminous writings an amazing synthesis of his heart and mind under thirty-four headings that range from Faith and Happiness to Peace and Truth. Not surprising, the longest chapter – the theme of the whole – is Liberty. It is an amazing synthesis, at once illuminating and uplifting.

Historians have often found Jefferson a difficult man to harmonize and sum up. He was, after all, tightly woven into many and diverse threads of history during an eventful life of eighty-three years. Eric S. Petersen’s Light and Liberty pays no heed to shifting historical contexts. The thought is here in all its variety but not the interstices of action.


Readers may pause to ask themselves on occasion, how American is this or that idea in the twenty-first century? Or how relevant is another Jeffersonian maxim in our own time, especially in the light of his own standard: “the earth was made for the living and not the dead”? But such questions only add to the reader’s enjoyment of this inspired book.”

Professor Merrill D. Peterson held the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation chair in history at the University of Virginia for a quarter century before retiring in 1987. A leading Jefferson scholar and biographer, his “Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation” and “The Jefferson Image in the American Mind” remain standards in the field. Merrill also authored and edited a dozen other books on Jefferson, his writings and his times, and served as an emeritus trustee of the Foundation.

Louis Auchinchloss

Lawyer and author of over 60 books

“Eric Petersen, a New York attorney who has for many years made an almost daily habit of studying the vast literary output of our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, has now culled from it a volume of essays, each stitched seamlessly together from paragraphs taken from many sources (letters, addresses, state papers), but all, of course, in Jefferson’s own words, and expressing Jefferson’s ideas on different subjects under such Emersonian titles as “Happiness”, “Humility”, “Self-discipline” etc. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, for one would think that Jefferson himself had put together each essay as a considered unit. And in a way he has, for the pieces are joined by the unity of a great mind and a great humanitarian. It has been said that there were many sides to Jefferson’s remarkable personality, but there was certainly a consistent common denominator in his highest thoughts, and Petersen has caught it.

That Jefferson’s ideas are given by themselves, without reference to the action or incident which may have generated them, gives a timelessness and cohesion to the whole that affords an illuminating penetration into the mind of one of our greatest American thinkers. More than ever in this post World Trade Center world do we need this kind of spiritual lift.

Louis Auchincloss was one of America’s most distinguished and versatile writers. He authored more than 50 works of fiction, criticism, social history and short stories over his long literary career. He was a former President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Vladimir Petrovsky


Chairman, Comprehensive Dialogue among Civilizations (CDAC)

Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR (1986 – 1991)

UN Under-Secretary General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (1992 – 2002)

 Secretary-General of the Conference of Disarmament (1992-2002)

Thomas Jefferson’s life and message has not lost anything of its importance in today’s time. On the contrary, the world is in dire need of leaders who have a clear vision and two practical hands to put this vision into practice. I particularly value his highest moral and ethical principals, his strong belief in the good of each individual and his unwavering conviction that each individual has the right to govern its own life. I also share his view that a righteous life dedicated to

truth and self-perfection is not only a sure way to greater personal happiness and fulfillment but also a fruitful soil for a country to prosper.

Thomas Jefferson was a great patriot, in its purest sense. He believed that each citizen of a country should in one way or another serve its country and that the people’s welfare should be the ultimate criteria for any government. Close to 200 years after his death, his dream is still not fully manifested on earth. This is why it is very important that Thomas Jefferson is heard today.

The book “Light and Liberty, Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness” offers an excellent opportunity to discover the essence of Thomas Jefferson’s vision and message. It has been edited by Eric Peterson in a very modern way, easily accessible and carried by an uplifting spirit.

I hope that the book will receive a wide audience not only in our country but all over the world. We can all greatly benefit from its timeless message.

Peter Bart

Editor-in-Chief, Variety“Petersen’s superb book provides a vivid reminder not only of Jefferson’s wisdom but also its relevance to today’s world.” 

Jason McManus

Former Editor-in-Chief of TIME Magazine, Inc.

“There has hardly been a time in our history when we needed the voice of Thomas Jefferson more, and here we have it, elegantly organized and wonderfully accessible, like the French gardens he loved. An essential bedside book for the ages.”

Forrest Church

Author of The American Creed; editor of The Jefferson Bible

“Seamlessly weaving Jefferson ’s wisdom and lively moral imagination into discrete and timeless meditations, this far from common ‘commonplace book’ brings Jefferson’s thought alive again for a new generation of Americans.”

Dan Fenn

Staff Assistant to President Kennedy

Founding Director of the JFK Library and Museum

“Given the material that I teach at Harvard’s Kennedy School and elsewhere around the country, I find Light and Liberty a unique resource and, personally, it is an inspiration.”

Newt Gingrich

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

“An ingenious gathering of the best of Thomas Jefferson.”

Edward H. Crane

President, The Cato Institute

“Thomas Jefferson was the founding genius of American freedom and of the freedom that is all too slowly spreading to all parts of the world. Those who seek to understand the human condition and American principles should ponder the wisdom in this short volume.”