Founding Frenemies: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Debate

May 26, 2023

Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club partnered with Farmington Civic Center to produce a pseudo debate between long-time pals and rivals, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The performance seems to prove that at one time political rivals were civil to each other—even while in disagreement. Called “We Disagreed as Rational Friends,” the comedic production was presented as a less-scripted, more-improvised game-show format, including a “Benjamin Franklin Lightning Round.” The Kiwanis Club fundraiser supports their numerous children’s programs such as Clothes for Kids, Shoes for Kids, Coats for Kids–plus an African Library project. By Donna K. Hewett. This story is sponsored by Ace Hardware in Farmington and Sunray Park & Casino

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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson took the stage at the Farmington Civic Center in a unique debate style historical reenactment called We Disagree as Rational Friends. The production sponsored by Rio Del Sol Kiwanis club starred the second and third president of the United States, portraying themselves as they were in life, opposing personalities with diverse political ideologies, both of whom nonetheless remained friends and colleagues over the course of 50 years. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Ace Hardware and SunRay Park & Casino. I'm Hayley Opsal. Though it was high school graduation weekend in Farmington and it was raining, the performance was well-attended, which pleased Kiwanis director Jill McQueary.

This is a joint effort between Kiwanis and the Civic Center. So any of the money that we make, half of it goes to Kiwanis, the other half goes to the Civic Center and our part will go towards the children's projects.

Actors from Philadelphia, Dixon and Edenbo, developed their routine during the pandemic as a game-show-like format, less scripted and more improvisational.

They're really amazing and they stay in character the whole time and they're professionals. They came in from Philadelphia and Steve Edenbo, who portrays Thomas Jefferson, has been doing this since 1999.

And witty repartee, Steve Edenbo as Jefferson and Peyton Dixon as Adams never break from character, even during a pre-show question-and-answer gathering.

I believe that anyone that should serve in the public realm of office should indeed be compensated for their labors. But of course, you know, when you have to pay for your own furniture as you say, your own horses, and making sure that you have-

Your own wine.

I attempted, well, some of us purchased more wine than other, Mr. Jefferson, but-

It was a necessary of entertaining.

Yes. So yes, well-

And of life.

If you enjoyed a great deal of entertaining, I felt that we had scarcity.

I'm saying I enjoyed it. Oh, madam, yes? Your question.

On the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, July 4th, 1826, both men died just a few hours apart. At the time, it was questioned whether they willed themselves to succumb in such an uncanny coincidence. In keeping with the waggish mood of the evening, both were incredulous when asked to comment.

That's a rather macabre question, I fear. The thought of actually trying to pretend to plan one's own demise seems a bit untoward.

No chance. No chance at all, madam. I do believe that it is not within the scope of a man's authority over himself to plan such an end that is in the hands of a higher power.

The Jefferson-Adams debate was a fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club in Farmington. Money raised is used to support their various children's projects.

We have a lot. We do the Kiwanis clothes for kids, shoes for kids, coats for kids. We also have an African Library project and those are some of the projects that we have. And then we do some fundraisers, which this is a fundraiser.

With a wink towards today's partisan hostility, the underlying theme of the show seemed to be that we can all civilly agree to disagree, but it's Jefferson, the philosopher, who gives the debate relevance in these modern times.

We remained friends even though we stood against each other in politics. The person who disagrees with you in politics is not your enemy. The person who supports a different presidential candidate. Mr. Adams and I competed as opposing presidential candidates. The person who disagrees with you and votes differently than you for a presidential candidate is not the enemy of America. We must find ways to communicate, maintain our friendships, maintain civil discourse as you will see tonight in my conversation with my friend John Adams. Because if we cannot do that, maintain that civil discourse with the people with whom we disagree, America will not survive as a government over a free people.

To learn more about this and other stories, go to Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Hayley Opsal.


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