Jon Meacham on the Forces that Shaped America
Jon Meacham is the Editor of Newsweek magazine. Since starting there as a writer in 1995, he has also served as the national affairs editor and managing editor. He now supervises and occasionally contributes to Newsweek’s coverage of politics, international affairs, and breaking news. Meacham is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (2006), and Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship (2003), which won the 2005 Emery Reves Award and the William H. Colby Military Writers Symposium’s Book of the Year Award. His latest book, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, was published by Random House on November 11, 2008.
Meacham has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and The Washington Post Book World. He is also a contributing editor for The Washington Monthly. In 2001, he edited Voices in Our Blood: America’s Best on the Civil Rights Movement (Random House), a collection of distinguished nonfiction about the mid-century struggle against Jim Crow. Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, with a degree summa cum laude in English Literature. He is also a member of the Board of Regents of The University of the South, the Vestry of Trinity Church Wall Street, the Leadership Council of the Harvard Divinity School and the Council on Foreign Relations. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in 2005 and also holds three honorary doctorates. He and his wife live in New York City with their two children.
Jon Meacham: Churchill once said, “Man may believe or disbelieve, but it’s a wicked thing to take away one’s hope.” You can’t explain the United States except as an exercise in optimism – realistic optimism – because it’s fundamentally a deposit of faith in the ultimate republic and our virtue of the people. It is an investment in the idea that we are on a journey that is in fact a linear one. And to use Churchill again, “The road is not always even, but in general the path is upward.” So I think that’s the . . . that’s the engine. Otherwise you have a kind of “Hobbsian”, closed-minded view in which so many possibilities are automatically foreclosed. And so I suppose I would argue that I think the guiding philosophical idea of America has been one of hope and increased, expanded, liberty. And that has been something that we have successfully exported. Sometimes we’ve done it unsuccessfully; but it’s not a bad bet. And given all the other bets its one I would take.
Recorded on: 7/3/07
Newsweek's Jon Meacham calls the American experiment an exercise in optimism.
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