When presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham visited Jacksonville Jan. 22, he came to speak at the Florida Forum at The Times-Union Center.
Slated to appear at 7 o’clock that evening, he spent time earlier that day visiting young patients at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. The Florida Forum series is presented by The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, and ticket proceeds from Meacham’s event helped the board meet their goal of raising $4 million for a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Visiting the children was “incredibly moving,” Meacham told that evening’s moderator, Tim Cost, president of Jacksonville University. Meacham said what he saw there was "incredibly important work,” and, “I salute the work you all are doing.”
The author’s talk lasted about an hour and was presented in a relaxed setting, during which he and Cost faced each other and the audience in large arm chairs.
Meacham has a reputation for being an entertaining storyteller and he didn’t disappoint that night. Author of biographies on Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, his latest New York Times bestseller, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels” examines present day politics in America by looking back at critical times in the nation’s history, when hope overcame division and fear.
Meacham also recently co-authored a book, “Impeachment: An American History,” which Cost pointed out was timely—as well as amazing timing on the part of the Women’s Board, which booked Meacham’s visit many months ago.
“The Women’s Board invited the foremost expert on impeachment to speak on the first day of an impeachment trial,” said Cost, who moderated the talk in question and answer format.
Cost then asked Meacham for his opinion about the impeachment trial of President Trump.
“It’s going to be like O.J., Alan Dershowitz is there,” Meacham answered, using humor, as he did throughout his talk, to lighten the conversation.
Then he turned serious. “I am not a Republican, not a Democrat, I’ve voted for both,” Meacham said. “I think he committed illegal offenses. I think they are removable. But I’m not in the Senate. I don’t get a vote.”
Comparing today’s events to those in the past, Meacham’s talk was informative and well received with laughter and applause throughout. He even brought up the fact that Andrew Jackson, namesake for Jacksonville, “spent about 20 minutes here, literally.”
Meacham acknowledged the country’s divisions. But wrapping it up, he came back around to the children he had visited that day.
“If there’s anything we can agree on,” he said, “it’s that the work that Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital does is of vital importance.”