BILOXI, MS — A month or so ago, Thomas Jefferson came to a gambling casino to speak to refrigeration folks.

Yes, I am aware that the above statement has its share of incongruity. So let me sort things out.

The Jefferson in question is the third president of the United States, as portrayed by writer and actor Patrick Lee.

The appearance in question was at a hotel connected to a Mississippi Gulf Coast casino. It took place during a luncheon at the annual conference of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES).

Lee doesn’t like to separate the actor from the role. His presentation was not promoted in advance and he stayed in character during his 30-minute talk, as well as in informal conversations afterwards.

The actor adapts his talk to his audience. So he told the refrigeration folks of ways Jefferson came up with to keep his Virginia home comfortable and to keep food supplies from spoiling. The methods came from Jefferson’s writings and apparently hit home. One bit of 18th-century technology had some in the audience recognizing a concept similar to today’s use of a check valve.

Toward the end of his talk, Lee offered some observations of Jefferson’s that have certainly stood the test of time. Jefferson called these “A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life.” They were first written by Jefferson in 1825, at age 81, to Thomas Jefferson Smith.

  • Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  • Never spend your money before you have it.
  • Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
  • Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
  • We never repent of having eaten too little.
  • Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  • How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  • Take things always by their smooth handle.
  • When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
  • Contractors can easily take nine of those 10 items to heart. Dieters can ponder the other one. Patrick Lee, by the way, does travel extensively and speaks to a wide variety of groups. Besides Jefferson, he also portrays Daniel Boone and William Clark (of Lewis and Clark). If you are interested in learning more about Lee, you can reach him at 573-657-2739 or online at (website).

    Publication date: 12/04/2000