Jon Meacham Delivers Fitzpatrick Lecture

Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham delivered Woodberry’s annual Fitzpatrick Lecture on Thursday. His talk, The Soul of America, drew from material in his latest book, which was published this week.
Mr. Meacham told the community that great leaders must possess three traits: curiosity, humility, and empathy. He said Thomas Jefferson’s curiosity about major ideas in western thought informed his work on the Declaration of Independence. John Kennedy’s humility after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion led him to seek advice from Dwight Eisenhower that proved crucial to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. George H. W. Bush’s empathy for Mikhail Gorbachev when the Berlin Wall fell gave the Soviet leader space to maneuver through treacherous domestic politics, Mr. Meacham said.
He also asserted that leaders, especially in American history, reflect the traits of the population at large just as much as those leaders shape the population at large.
“Politicians are mirrors of us, not molders of us,” Mr. Meacham said.
Mr. Meacham won the Pulitzer for his biography of Andrew Jackson. He’s written six books in all and is currently conducting research for a biography on James and Dolley Madison.
The Fitzpatrick Lecture was made possible by the gifts of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Fitzpatrick of New Orleans, Louisiana. Their four sons, Whitfield ’60, the late Peter ’64, Vaughan ’67, and James ’74, have made financial contributions to the lecture series. Two Fitzpatrick grandsons, Gustave ’93 and Fletcher ’98, also attended Woodberry. The late Mr. Fitzpatrick was an associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, executive editor and director of Landmark Communications, and editor of the New Orleans States, where he received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished editorial writing.
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