Pulitzer-winning historian Jon Meacham  to open ’24 Chautauqua Lecture Series


Esteemed presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham returns to the Amphitheater stage as the inaugural speaker of Chautauqua’s 2024 Summer Assembly Season, and to kick off the celebration of the Institution’s 150th anniversary. 

Meacham will be keynoting this week’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “The Evolution of the Modern Presidency,” at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amp. It’s a topic which other speakers will continue to build on throughout the week.

Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Jordan Steves, who oversees programming the Chautauqua Lecture Series, said Meacham will be illustrating what the intent of the presidency was at the nation’s founding and the way it has evolved, going through some monumental changes in the presidency during America’s history. Meacham will touch on internal and external influences that have altered the way the presidency works, leading up to the current moment.

“We wanted to make sure to start off our 150th season with a name we knew Chautauquans would respond to,” Steves said, and it was important to get “historical perspective from one of our leading public intellectuals and historians of the day about what the intent of the presidency was in the beginning.” 

Few people can do that as gracefully and thoughtfully as Meacham, said Steves.

Meacham is currently a contributing editor at TIME and has served as the Canon Historian of the Washington National Cathedral since 2021. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his book American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and has had multiple No. 1 New York Times bestsellers — many of them about America’s presidents, so the evolution of the presidency is a topic Meacham is uniquely equipped to tackle. He has explored it through many of his books, writing directly about presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George W. H. Bush, and Andrew Jackson, as well as exploring broader concepts about American History such as the music that helped shape the nation. 

The last time Meacham spoke at Chautauqua, in 2022, he established a strong rapport with his audience with some thought provoking questions that had them laughing and thinking, said Steves. He spoke during a week on “The Future of History,” while digging into the past — similar to what he will do with the theme of “The Evolution of the Modern Presidency.”  

“A democracy is the fullest expression of all of us. That is at once thrilling and terrifying,” Meacham said during his 2022 lecture. “It’s thrilling, because it is up to us. If enough of us have habits of heart and mind, if enough of us have a disposition in our manners and morals to find political expression, then a course of action can happen.”

Tags : American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White HouseJon MeachamMorning Lecture PreviewNew York Times bestsellerPulitzer PrizeThe Evolution of the Modern Presidencytime

The author Sabine Obermoller

Sabine Obermoller is spending her first year as an intern at The Chautauquan Daily as the literary arts reporter. She is a rising senior at Ohio University majoring in journalism and minoring in retail fashion merchandising. She is from Santiago, Chile, where her family and beloved dog Oliver still live. Sabine serves as the director of public relations for Ohio University’s student-run fashion magazine, Thread Magazine. In her free time she enjoys reading, crocheting, concerts, watching movies, and fangirling over various celebrities. Sabine will never say no to a Chai latte with almond milk.