Pulitzer-prize winning historian tells UK campus crowd about importance of history


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Raymond Vanderpool

Lexingtonians and members of the UK community packed tightly into the Worsham Cinema on Monday night to hear the perspective and expertise of a Pulitzer-prize winning presidential historian.

The UK Gaines Center for the Humanities and Kentucky Humanities held an event for this year’s Bale Boone Symposium, “An Evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham” at the new theater inside the UK Bill Gatton Student Center.

Meacham is a popular biographer and presidential historian who has authored many books and appears regularly on TV. The line for the event, reception and book signing snaked through the main halls of the new student center. Many were eagerly standing with Meacham’s prize-winning books in hand, waiting to be signed.

The Worsham Cinema was so filled with attendees that many stood at the back of the theater at the start of Meacham’s speech.

He read excerpts from literature by Robert Penn Warren and spoke about how our current political climate can be examined through past presidents, their policy and the history of the U.S. He made jokes that made the audience laugh, and at times used loaded words that caused emotional gasps in the crowd.

“What Warren taught is we need narrative, literature, and history to combat issues today,” Meacham said.

He closed with a quote from his time speaking personally with former president Barack Obama: “There might be one step forward and two steps back; but things are never as good as we think they are going when we are there, but after we realize it was better [than we thought].”

Meacham took questions afterward about the current political climate and his opinions on whether our climate today mirrors times in the past.

He spoke objectively and used his immense knowledge on the subject of policies and past presidencies to explain that we might be in a turbulent time, but there is always a chance for improvement and progress in all sectors of our government and our society as a whole.

The speech ended with a standing ovation from the audience.