Jon Meacham & Doris Kearns Goodwin

A History of America’s ‘New’ Presidents

Program Date: January 21, 2017

On the day following the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, The Richmond Forum welcomed back two of America’s leading presidential historians to provide us with a long view of our nation’s newly elected presidents—from George Washington to Barack Obama, from their inaugural addresses to their fabled “first 100 days,” and from their promises as campaigners to their ability to deliver as leaders.

Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin have written extensively about the U.S. presidency and our moderator for the evening, Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, has conducted eight sit-down interviews with former President Barack Obama.

Program BookMeacham/Goodwin Program Book

The evening commenced with music from perennial Richmond Forum favorite The Butterbean Jazz Quartet.

Senior Vice President of Research, Development & Regulatory Affairs James E. Dillard from Altria Group gave opening remarks and welcomed our panelists to the stage.

Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin were joined by NPR Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep to begin the discussion.

Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin with Steve Inskeep. January 21, 2017.
Jon Meacham addresses the student room. January 21, 2017.
A student asks Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin a question. January 21, 2017.
Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Steve Inskeep. January 21, 2017.
Doris Kearns Goodwin with Steve Inskeep (back) and Jon Meacham (right). January 21, 2017.
Moderator Steve Inskeep with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham. January 21, 2017.
Jon Meacham. January 21, 2017.
Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Steve Inskeep. January 21, 2017.

We’ve been talking about ambition a lot tonight. And the importance is when you get that power, what do you do with it. Lincoln had it from the age of twenty-three when he first ran. And these other guys developed it later. And then the last part is the question about the man and the times—does the man make the times or the times make the man?–Doris Kearns Goodwin
Consistency is not the test for [any politician], seems to me. To me, it’s effectiveness. To me, it’s a kind of moral clarity when things are really, really dark.–Jon Meacham
My theory of biography is that we shouldn’t look up at figures from the past adoringly or look down on them condescendingly and feel morally superior to them, but to try to look them in the eye. And if we look them in the eye, take them for what they were, judge them by the forces and the voices in their time. By humanizing them, we don’t put them on pedestals, we actually, I think, are able to learn more from them. If they were as driven by appetite and ambition and sin and as hobbled by shortcoming as we are, and yet left the country a little better, then all the rest of us can, too.–Jon Meacham
I keep wishing that maybe we had some sort of national service…so that young people can experience that connection with one another, experience that sense of a common mission because they go into their private lives, which as you’re saying have so seduced us all that that sense of coming together is so artificial in Facebook and things like that rather than truly working together.–Doris Kearns Goodwin


This program was recorded for broadcast on WCVE-TV in Richmond.


One of the most insightful and introspective Forums ever. The views expressed helped me put this current election in context and reminded me that America, while it does not always move forward in a straight line, does move forward.–Subscriber Comment
Ms. Goodwin and Mr. Meacham were the right guests at the right time, no matter which side of the political aisle one is on.–Subscriber Comment


Jon Meacham Speaker Bio

Jon MeachamPresidential historian, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and contributing editor at TIME, Jon Meacham is one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. A regular guest on Joe Scarborough‘s Morning Joe, he is known as a skilled raconteur with a depth of knowledge about politics, religion, and current affairs. He understands and analyzes how issues and events impact our lives.

His latest Presidential biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, debuted at #1 on the New York Times best sellers list in November 2015. The Times said, “Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it.”

Meacham’s #1 New York Times bestseller, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, was hailed as “masterful and intimate” by Fortune magazine. His other national bestsellers include Franklin and Winston, American Gospel, and American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Meacham is Executive Vice President and Executive Editor at the Random House Publishing Group. He served as the managing editor at Newsweek from 1998 to 2006 and editor from 2006 to 2010. The New York Times called him “one of the most influential editors in the news magazine business.” Now a contributing editor at TIME, he writes for its Ideas section.

He has appeared on Meet The Press, The Colbert Report, and Ken Burns’ documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Fox News produced an hour-long special about Meacham’s Destiny and Power in November 2015.

Named a “Global Leader for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow of the Society of American Historians, and chairs the National Advisory Board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University.

This was Jon Meacham’s second appearance at The Richmond Forum. His first appearance was with Reza Aslan on Faith and Politics in January 2009.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Speaker Bio

Doris Kearns GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Goodwin is the author of six critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling books, including her most recent, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (2013). Winner of the Carnegie Medal, The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios has acquired the film rights to the book.

Spielberg and Goodwin previously worked together on Lincoln, based in part on Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, an epic tome that illuminates Lincoln’s political genius, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. Team of Rivals was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize and the inaugural Book Prize for American History.

Goodwin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, and is the author of the best sellers Wait Till Next Year, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, which was adapted into an award-winning five-part TV miniseries.

Well known for her appearances and commentary on television, Goodwin is seen frequently on television networks NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, CNN, as well as The Charlie Rose Show and Meet the Press. Other appearances have included The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and many more. Goodwin has served as a consultant and has been interviewed extensively for PBS and the History Channel’s documentaries on President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Kennedy family, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham and Mary Lincoln, and Ken Burns’ The History of Baseball and most recently Burns’ The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.

Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College, and was a Woodrow Wilson fellow. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Government from Harvard University, where she taught Government, including a course on the American Presidency. At the age of 24, Goodwin became a White House fellow, working directly with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Goodwin served as an assistant to President Johnson in his last year in the White House, and later assisted him in the preparation of his memoirs.

Among her many honors and awards, Goodwin was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, and most recently the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and the Ohioana Book Award.

Goodwin lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer, presidential advisor, speechwriter and playwright Richard N. Goodwin. She was the first woman to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room, and is a devoted fan of the World Series-winning team.

This was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s fourth appearance at The Richmond Forum. She previously appeared alongside historian David McCullough in 1997 and 2002, and with filmmaker Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner in 2013.

Steve Inskeep Moderator Bio

Steve InskeepKnown for probing questions to everyone from presidents to warlords to musicians, Steve Inskeep‘s palpable passion for telling stories has made him one of the leading news journalists in the country.

As host of NPR’s Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio news program in the U.S., Inskeep breaks down fast-moving events to make news stories accessible to listeners. He has delivered on-the-ground insight from all over the world, from New Orleans to Tehran, having investigated Iraqi police in Baghdad, traveled 2,700 miles across North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring and reported from war-torn Syria. In 2014, he drove 2,428 miles along the entire U.S.-Mexico border; the resulting radio series, “Borderland,” won widespread attention, as did the acclaimed NPR online magazine of the same name.

Inskeep has earned a myriad of honors for his news coverage, including a 2006 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award for “The Price of African Oil,” a 2003 National Headliner Award for investigating a military raid gone wrong in Afghanistan, and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for “The York Project,” groundbreaking conversations about race, conducted with Michele Norris during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

The author of Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, Inskeep’s newest book, Jacksonland, chronicles the history of President Andrew Jackson’s long-running conflict with John Ross. He has written for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic and has appeared on television programs including NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s Inside Politics, and the PBS NewsHour.

2016-2017 Season

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Krista Tippett
February 18, 2017
Ron Howard
April 22, 2017

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