“Hello, Mr. President,” I said.
He fought to regain his composure.
“I am no president,” he answered.
“Ah,” I said. “What year is it where you are from?”
“It is the summer of 1776,” he said. “What colony am I in? I prayed to be taken to the future to see the greatest achievement of my lifetime. I expected to see a new nation, but found myself here by a muddy river instead. So I wept.”
I smiled. “That is no random muddy river. That is the mighty Missouri. Great explorers mapped it at your command. And this is no colony. This is Kansas, the centermost state in the 50 United States of America, which you helped found and expand — the greatest, most prosperous nation on earth in the 21st century.”
He seemed to grow taller with pride. “The United States of America!” he grinned. “Then it worked? Our idea worked?”
“It sure did,” I said.
“We were afraid it would fail,” he said. “There was so much evil in the world of 1776. Perhaps you cannot imagine such a thing now.”
“Don’t get me started,” I said. “We have troubles of our own.”
“Tell me,” he said. “What is the worst trouble now, in the United States of America in the 21st century?”
I bowed my head.
“It is a shameful thing,” I said. “People don’t like to talk about it. I hate to mention it. It’s abortion. Many parents abort their babies rather than bring them into the world. We justify it because they are only unborn children.”
Jefferson’s face went pale.
“But even in the womb, we have our humanity!” he said. “These must be evil people who abort!”
“Not at all,” I said. “They are just regular people — but society does not support the family, and does not insist on morality, so it has come to this.”
“What about the churches?” said Jefferson, raising his eyebrows. “My friend John Adams will be disappointed. Do the churches fail to teach the people good morals?”
“They do fine, but the churches have been marginalized for a long time in America,” I said. “The government pushed God out of the public square. And now the government is forcing people of my faith against our consciences to pay for things we consider immoral, including abortion.”
“Shall we never rid ourselves of tyrants!” he cried. “But surely as people read the ancients, seeking after their proper happiness, they come to cherish right reason? Let reason teach them not to kill their young, and not to fear religious liberty.”
“The old virtues have been rejected, Mr. Jefferson,” I said. “Truth is denounced as ‘intolerant.’ Duty is out, ‘self-fulfillment’ is in. The people pursue pleasure rather than meaning.”
Mr. Jefferson frowned and stared at the river for a long time.
Then his eyes brightened. “Have you a quill?” he asked. I gave him a pen and my notebook. He began to write furiously. When he was done, he looked up at me, beaming.
“What a fortuitous meeting,” he said. “You have saved your country!”
“How so?” I asked.
“I thank God for showing me this nightmare. Back in 1776, I am writing a document that will establish this new nation. The words I have written will ensure that this future of casual killings, weakened churches and moral cowardice will never be!”
I snapped a picture of what he had written, then handed the page to him.
“Now, angels of heaven,” he said, “take me back to my rightful time and let the revolution begin!” He disappeared into thin air.
I eagerly looked at the picture I had taken, but a numbness spread over my body as I read it. He was right. His words were tailor-made to avoid the “nightmare” he had seen. If they were followed.
Here is what he had written:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Then, it was my turn to sit by the Missouri River and cry.