On September 14th, 2022, in preparation for the Face to Face Speaker Forum with George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, Wake Forest students gathered for a question and answer session with Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham.
A topic for discussion included exploring historical biography and how to avoid bias to present a fair perspective. “The idea that a historian or biographer is neutral, I don’t know what neutrality means. Writers of nonfiction go into the past, find the best most authentic sources they can, and attempt to make something new,” Meacham explained. “I hope to be fair enough, open-hearted enough, proportioned enough. I hope that if Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Thomas Jefferson read my work they would think it was fair.”
He continued with comments about human nature resulting in using the Constitution to support specific perspectives. “Our personal behavior is a microcosm of the larger representation of the nation,” he concluded. The character traits Meacham included when looking at the legacy of great presidents include curiosity, candor, and empathy.
The conversation was facilitated by program scholars and students including finance major Rashad Raad and business and enterprise management major Olivia Summiel, both seniors.
Relating to the traits Meacham mentioned, Raad connected empathy to a larger perspective. “To have empathy is to go beyond its definition. Meacham spoke about empathy being one of the best qualities to look for in a president, but I also think it’s a quality to strive to find in people generally.”
Junior Spencer Mckenzie, a double major in English and environmental science commented, “I was interested in Meacham’s comments about the increasing polarization of the American public regarding not only politics but the ways in which we reflect on history as well.”
The Face to Face Speaker Forum event was presented by Wake Forest University’s School of Business Allegacy Center for Leadership and Character.