H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Nov 26, 2012 12:23 PM by Dan Shadwell

Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winner to speak at UCSB tonight

For all of his brilliance, one of the most interesting things about our third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was his seemingly contradictory nature.
He penned the line "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence... yet he owned slaves at the time and we now know, fathered children with one of them.
Tonight, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author of the new book, "Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power," Jon Meacham will speak at Campbell Hall at UCSB.
Earlier, we spoke with Meacham, whom you may have seen touting his new book on the sunday morning talk shows yesterday.
Here's a bit of our discussion:
Dan Shadwell: "Do you think, if he were alive today, that he (Jefferson) would be more surprised by the fact that we have a black man as president, or that it took us so long to get a black man as president?"
Jon Meacham: "That's a great question. I don't know. One of the things that's so interesting about Jefferson and race is that he genuinely could not envision a bi-racial society--a diverse society the way we live now.
"Yet, he created one at Monticello and I've tried to reconcile that obviously for a long time in working on the book. I finally came up with what I think is a plausible explanation, which is... like a lot of politicians, he believed that if he were in charge, everything would be okay--that is, he could keep the lid on and not... it wouldn't blow up. I think that was a critical part of his thinking. you know, if he'd been able to magically live another 30-40 years, I think he would have seen the unfolding drama of abolition in a way that would have made him think that this was in fact, the natural evolution of the country--to elect people from diverse backgrounds, because the point of the country was to create a culture in which the seemingly impossible, could happen."
You can view the full interview with Jon Meacham on our website, by clicking on the "Local Spotlight" button in the window toward the top of the home page at ksby.com, later today.
In addition to questions of Jefferson's presidency, Meacham speculates on how the founding father would have addressed the approaching "fiscal cliff."
By the way, Meacham is the former editor-in-chief of Newsweek magazine.
He'll be speaking tonight at 8 at Campbell Hall on the UCSB campus.
Admission is free for students and $10 for everyone else.

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