Presidential historian Jon Meacham to analyze history with modern context

A renowned presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, contributing editor at TIME, husband and father. These are a few of many titles to describe Jon Meacham as he returns to Chautauqua for the third time, and second time in-person. 

Meacham will give his lecture as part of Week Four’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme “The Future of History” at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, July 21, in the Amphitheater. 

“What we expect him to do is reflect on this larger theme of the future of history and the moments that our democracy is faced with, in terms of a divided country and deep polarization, with reflections through work he has done,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author Isabel Wilkerson was originally scheduled to speak at today’s lecture, but had to postpone; Ewalt and his colleagues are working with Wilkerson to reschedule her lecture for the fall or as an online event.

Meacham’s work with presidential history and studying the Constitution allows him to provide an informative and speculative view. 

“The Constitution was essential in preserving slavery and in securing white male supremacy,” said Meacham in August 2020 on CHQ Assembly.
“It was written, in many ways, to protect people who look like me.” 

Meacham spent that August 2020 virtual lecture addressing the partisan political climate.

“He joined us specifically with a week on the Constitution, really offering his reflections on the founding document and its lasting power. I think there are some themes that Meacham often looks to that will continue to resonate with us,” Ewalt said “But I think that this is also a critically important moment in our country, when we think about the role of history in a national dialogue — so I think he will speak on that as well.”

Meacham is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Society of American Historians. Ewalt thinks he will bring a fresh perspective, as history is ever-changing.

“He’s a historian whose work is constantly doing this deeper research and exploration as he grows as a scholar, and he’s someone who is very attentive to be thinking about the conversations we need to have about history and our current moment,” Ewalt said. “I’m confident that he will help us to confront our current moments, and the state of our democracy and in very powerful ways.”

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.