Disagreeing Agreeably

“The future of the republic is not some remote clinical thing,” Jon Meacham told his Thacher audience. “It's not in someone else's hands. It's in all of our hands."
“To what extent can we all help the country do what we do best, which is disagree, but do so agreeably as opposed to reflexively?” Anna ’21 quoted Jon Meacham while introducing him as our most recent McCloskey Speaker Series presenter.

Mr. Meacham is a renowned presidential historian, contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, contributing editor at TIME, and prolific biographer. He won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and has been awarded nine honorary doctorate degrees throughout his career. Currently, he holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Endowed Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University.

Meacham began his talk with a shout out to Anna who was a counselor at a camp his daughter attended in North Carolina. Then, he put the recent presidential election in historical context, referring to the right to vote as “sacred,” and telling the group that the “future of the republic is not some remote clinical thing. It's not in someone else's hands. It's in all of our hands.” 

Meacham’s most recent book, His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, addresses the life and legacy of recently deceased congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis. Lewis’s example, said Meacham, is “something that can give us the means to act in our own time and to shape the present and the future.” Meacham’s deep respect stems from Lewis’s lifelong devotion to bringing about the beloved community—an America in which all are included in the Jeffersonian promise. 

Returning to Anna’s question about disagreeing agreeably, Meacham made it clear that America is not the place for those who only want to deal with people with whom they agree: “free government, popular government, is based on the capacity for mutual concessions of opinion, on give and take.”

In her closing, Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck thanked Mr. Meacham for “inspiring us towards our better angels, as you describe it, in those innumerable decisions that we make every day that are part of our humanity.”

About the McCloskey Speaker Series
The McCloskey Speaker Series aims to bring high caliber, inspirational resources and speakers with a wide degree of expertise and interests to Thacher and the Ojai community at large. It was made possible by a 2016 donation from the McCloskey Family Charitable Foundation that supports the operational costs of the series in perpetuity at Thacher.
    • Jon Meacham 2020

      Jon Meacham McCloskey Speaker Nov 2020

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