Jon Meacham

Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham gave MTSU students and faculty a mesmerizing interview on Mr. Meacham’s latest book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.

Skillfully leading the interview to span over six decades of the personal and political career of “41,” G.H.W. Bush — the father of “W” (43) and Jeb — Dean Ken Paulson drew many fascinating details of the career of President Bush and the relationship between author and subject. The engaging conversation was organized by Pat Embry, director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, with the support and help of College of Media and Entertainment.

Bush’s astonishing career – war hero, ambassador, CIA head, Vice President, President, to just scrape the surface – was tempered by his humility and willingness simply to serve. The audience loved the details Mr. Meacham recounted. Listening to 41’s actual voice on the diary tapes 41 faithfully dictated over decades. The total access to all diaries (including Mrs. Bush, GHW Bush’s wife), notes, etc. to which Mr. Meacham was allowed. The complete cooperation of interviewees ranging from comics to prime ministers. The permission to write and publish the book without approvals of any kind. The nine years it took to write the book.

Event organizer, Pat Embry with Jon Meacham

Event organizer, Pat Embry with Jon Meacham

These wonderful details were interlaced with imitations by Mr. Meacham of Dana Carvey, 41, and others, humorous descriptions such as slyly calling Sewanee (University of the South) as “a cross between Downton Abbey and Deliverance.” It is a tribute to Dean Paulson to get us through 75 years of a man’s life in 60 minutes, and as Mr. Meacham himself experienced during the writing, the audience had a much deeper and fuller appreciation of a man who seems in stark contrast to the current troupe of Presidential contenders wrestling on the stage of New Hampshire.