Jon Meacham with Larry Wilmore
This video is from an event held on November 1, 2022 at Live Talks Los Angeles
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham chronicles the life and moral evolution of Abraham Lincoln and explores why and how Lincoln confronted secession, threats to democracy, and the tragedy of slavery in order to expand the possibilities of America
Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. The Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University, he is the author of the New York Times bestsellers His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, The Soul of America, The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, American Gospel, and Franklin and Winston.
Emmy Award winner Larry Wilmore has been a television producer, actor, comedian, and writer for more than 25 years. He can currently be heard as host of Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air on The Ringer Podcast Network. The show features Wilmore’s unique mix of humor and wit as he weighs in on the issues of the week and interviews guests in the worlds of politics, entertainment, culture, sports, and beyond. Larry can also be seen in the Paramount+ film Jerry and Margo Go Large, alongside Bryan Cranston and Annette Benning. He also serves as executive producer alongside Kerry Washington, in the upcoming legal drama Reasonable Doubt for Hulu’s Onyx Collective which premieres this Fall. He also appeared in and executive produced Netflix’s Amend: The Fight for America. Wilmore is perhaps best known for his role as host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, which debuted in January 2015 and ran for nearly two years. Wilmore serves as co-creator and consulting producer on HBO’s Insecure. He also helped to launch ABC’s black-ish as an executive producer and is a co-creator of the spin-off Grownish. Previously, Wilmore made memorable appearances as the “Senior Black Correspondent” on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and hosted his own Showtime “town hall”-style comedy specials, Larry Wilmore’s Race, Religion & Sex. He has written for In Living Color, The PJ’s (which he co-created), The Office (on which he has appeared as Mr. Brown, the diversity consultant), and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He also served as creator, writer, and executive producer of The Bernie Mac Show, which earned him a 2002 Emmy Award for “Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series” and a 2001 Peabody Award.
“Biography at its best, the great historian Barbara Tuchman wrote, paints an intimate portrait of an individual which simultaneously provides a sweeping view of history. With this deep, compelling work, Jon Meacham has achieved this gold standard. Written with wisdom and grace, his story of Lincoln’s complex moral journey to Emancipation mirrors America’s long and troubled quest to live up to its founding ideals.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
A President who governed a country at war with itself has much to teach us in a twenty-first-century moment of polarization and political crisis. Abraham Lincoln was president when implacable secessionists gave no quarter in a clash of visions inextricably bound up with money, power, race, identity, and faith. He was hated and hailed, excoriated and revered. In Lincoln we can see the possibilities of the presidency as well as its limitations.
At once familiar and elusive, Lincoln tends to be seen in popular minds as the greatest of American presidents—a remote icon—or as a politician driven more by calculation than by conviction. This illuminating new portrait gives us a very human Lincoln—an imperfect man whose moral antislavery commitment was essential to the story of justice in America. Here is the Lincoln who, as a boy, was steeped in the sermons of emancipation by Baptist preachers; who insisted that slavery was a moral evil; and who sought, as he put it, to do right as God gave him light to see the right.
This book tells the story of Lincoln from his birth on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to his leadership during the Civil War to his tragic assassination at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday 1865: his rise, his self-education through reading, his loves, his bouts of depression, his political failures, his deepening faith, and his persistent conviction that slavery must end. In a nation shaped by the courage of the enslaved of the era and by the brave witness of Black Americans of the nineteenth century, Lincoln’s story illuminates the ways and means of politics, the marshaling of power in a belligerent democracy, the durability of white supremacy in America, and the capacity of conscience to shape the maelstrom of events.
Lincoln was not all he might have been—few human beings ever are—but he was more than many men have ever been. We could have done worse. And we have. And, as Lincoln himself would readily acknowledge, we can always do better. But we will do so only if we see Abraham Lincoln—and ourselves—whole.