Meacham draws 250 to discussion about Bush 41

Noted author Jon Meacham (right) and Pat Embry, executive director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.

Noted author Jon Meacham (right) and Pat Embry, executive director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham gave MTSU students and faculty a look inside his latest book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, when he spoke to a crowd of about 250 on Feb. 9 on campus.

Skillfully leading the interview to span over six decades of the personal and political career of “41” was Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment. He questioned Meacham on many fascinating details of the career of G.H.W. Bush — the father of “W” (43) and Jeb — and delved into the relationship between the author and his 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 the College.

Bush’s astonishing career – war hero, ambassador, CIA head, vice president, president – was tempered by his humility and willingness simply to serve. The audience loved the details Meacham recounted: listening to 41’s voice on the diary tapes he faithfully dictated over decades, the total access to all diaries (including those of former first lady Barbara Bush) and notes to which Meacham had access. He enjoyed the complete cooperation of interviewees ranging from comics to prime ministers, and the permission to write and publish the book without approvals of any kind. It took Meacham nine years to write the book.

These wonderful details were interlaced with imitations by Meacham of Dana Carvey, 41 and others, humorous descriptions such as slyly calling The University of South at Sewanee “a cross between Downton Abbey and Deliverance.”

Paulson led Meacham and the audience through 75 years of a man’s life in 60 minutes. As Meacham himself experienced during the writing of his book, the audience was left with 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.

This story was written by Tom Neff, an assistant professor in the Department of Electronic Media Communication.

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Categories: Events, Faculty

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