Jon Meacham to deliver 2019 Press Distinguished Lecture at Centre College

Published 7:49 pm Friday, February 1, 2019


Centre College

Presidential historian and former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham will visit Centre College on Feb. 12 to deliver the Press Distinguished Lecture and receive an honorary degree.

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The Press Distinguished Lecture series was endowed in 1999 by Lucille Little to honor her friends Lil and Len Press, who had founded and provided leadership for a number of important Kentucky institutions, including the Kentucky Educational Television (KET) network, the PBS-affiliate in Lexington; the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program; and the Kentucky community mental health system.

Over the past 18 years, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Elie Wiesel, Arianna Huffington, James Fallows, Helen Thomas, David Brooks and others who have “made a difference in our cultural and civic lives” have visited Centre as Press Distinguished Lecturers.

One of this nation’s most celebrated authors, Meacham’s recent book is The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Two other books achieved similar recognition, both of them presidential biographies: Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.


His biography of President Bush later became an hour-long special on Fox News in 2015, and Meacham was also invited to offer a tribute at the funeral of First Lady Barbara Bush. Only months later, in December 2018, he delivered the first eulogy at President Bush’s funeral, calling him the “last great soldier-statesman.”

Besides appearing as a regular guest on Morning Joe, Meacham has appeared on Meet the Press, The Colbert Report and in the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.

Meacham is also a contributing editor at TIME, where his latest essay, “When Leadership Fails,” was part of that magazine’s recent special report titled “Beyond Hate.”

The date for Meacham’s lecture at Centre College falls on the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who has several connections with the 200-year-old Kentucky educational institution, now celebrating its bicentennial throughout 2019.

Lincoln’s strongest association is through alumnus John Todd Stuart, Centre Class of 1826, who encouraged Lincoln to study law, gave him his first law books and later served as the future president’s first law partner. This relationship is memorialized on campus by a statue created by Ed Hamilton that features a young Lincoln holding the law books loaned to him by Stuart.

As well, two of Mary Todd Lincoln’s brothers attended Centre, as did Joseph Holt, the prosecutor who tried and convicted the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Finally, Lyman Beecher Todd, M.D., a cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln, was at the bedside of the president in his final hours at the Peterson House across from Ford’s Theater.

Meacham’s lecture begins at 7 p.m. and takes place in Newlin Hall in the Norton Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public.


The Press Distinguished Lecture with Jon Meacham, “The Battle for our Better Angels,” will be 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Newlin Hall at the Norton Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public.