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Author and Presidential historian Jon Meacham contextualizes political polarization

John Meacham speaking at GVSU Eberhard Center

Presidential historian John Meacham, author of the recently released book “The Soul of America” visited Grand Valley State University in partnership with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Meacham explains the political rancor permeating American society is nothing new offering a way forward. 

Presidential historian John Meacham explains Americans have an essence drawn from its great leaders, and... “You have a soul that has room for the Klan and it has room for Martin Luther King. And when you think about it, the struggle of every moment, because this is true for us, right, individually, so why wouldn’t it be true in a Republic, which is the sum of our parts. A Republic is the sum of our manifestation of the dispositions of heart and mind of all of us. It’s the nature of self-government. It’s an idea Plato understood it. It came through Augustine and Aquinas to Machiavelli to Madison to all of us. We are, in fact, the country is in fact far more representative us than we might want to acknowledge. Politicians are far more often mirrors of who we are than they are molders. That’s a hard truth, but think about it.”

Meacham, the author of the book The Soul of America says we all need to understand our politics, our government and public life is a human struggle that he sees as liberating.

“Because it means that we can change it. We won’t change it perfectly or forever, because nothing will be changed perfectly and forever short of what Faulkner called “the last red and dying evening”, but the soul of the country ultimately has created a culture where, what is the immigration issue in this country? It’s that people want to come here. They’re not leaving. They’re coming here. And we can argue, and will, for the next year about the nuances and details of that, but fundamentally do people want to be part of this experiment or not? And more people want to be part of it than not.and so there’s something worth preserving. There’s something worth refining and it will go on and be a struggle from moment to moment to moment.”

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.