BILL BARKER

Thomas Jefferson Interpreter

Bill Barker
LISTEN TO BARKER'S DIARY

MARCH 30, 2003 · Bill Barker is a character interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Every day, he goes to work in knee breaches and buckled shoes and "plays" -- or in the language of the living history museum "interprets" -- Thomas Jefferson. As a Founding Father, Barker has heard all kinds of questions from the public, but he says that recently the tone of the questions has changed... that the war in Iraq hangs in the air. Last week, Barker got a question he'd never heard before. This is his War Diary.

I have been working at Colonial Williamsburg for a good 10 years. I find that most questions that are put to me when I'm in the person of Thomas Jefferson I can either answer or direct to something that I do know that can help with the answer.

But last week I got a question that I've never been asked before and that was by a young girl, about seven or eight years old. She had sort of tawny hair and very bright blue eyes, I remember. And she just looked at me squarely in the face with her hand up. I said, '"Yes, dear." And she said, "Mr. Jefferson, what do you tell someone who's going to war?" And I just stood there speechless and I realized, here's a question through the ages.

"She said, 'Mr. Jefferson, what do you tell someone who's going to war?' And I just stood there speechless and I realized, here's a question through the ages."

How do you answer this, how would Mr. Jefferson answer this, because Jefferson was someone who said he abhorred war and he viewed it as the greatest scourge of mankind. And here's a little girl looking at me innocently with perhaps a member of her family going to war and I was speechless as to how to answer her and yet realized... a founding father must certainly attend to these questions as you should all and I said, "Dear, just know that we are with those who go to war and hope that they will not forget us for we certainly don't forget them and hope that they will return to us as soon as possible."

But we're going through an experience right now, we're going through a course of history that I don't think has really been taken before in our nation's history. To say what Jefferson or any of the other Founding Fathers might say to our present experience is very difficult and I don't think we really can apply the experience of our past with this present experience.


Colonial Williamsburg




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