Author, historian Jon Meacham derives modern lessons from historical figures

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Presidential Historian Jon Meacham speaks at Gusman Concert Hall Tuesday evening regarding how past political leadership influences current governmental decision-making. Pulling from his extensive knowledge of presidential history, Meacham aimed to connect to UM students, many of whom are first time voters. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photogapher

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham speaks at Gusman Concert Hall Tuesday evening regarding how past political leadership influences current governmental decision-making. Pulling from his extensive knowledge of presidential history, Meacham aimed to connect to UM students, many of whom are first time voters. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photogapher

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham discussed the greatest leaders in American history and how leaders in the 21st century could learn from them.

Speaking to a full house at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall on Tuesday night, Meacham covered topics including Thomas Jefferson’s pragmatism, Andrew Jackson’s management of public opinion and John F. Kennedy’s ability to recover from his own mistakes. Meacham’s speech did not fail to garner intrigue from the crowd. His Bill Clinton impersonations were a hit with the audience as well.

“Most people who have made a difference have struggled,” Meacham said. He drew parallels between difficulties faced by leaders of the early American republic and those faced by contemporary leaders by putting historical issues in a modern context, giving listeners a better understanding of the early American political scene.

Meacham is the executive vice president of Random House, the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world, as well as a contributing editor to Time Magazine. His 2012 book, “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and his most recent book, “Destiny and Power,” debuted at number one on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list.

The renowned historian directed much of his speech toward the young people in the audience, specifically speaking to the numerous first-time voters attending UM who will vote in the upcoming presidential election.

“Keep an open mind, read up on them [and]try to understand who they are,” he said. “The plans and policies will always change, but the character of the person is key.”

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