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John F. Kennedy once told a presidential biographer that rating presidents from best to worst that it was impossible without a deep appreciation of the office. Perhaps even first-hand experience was necessary: “No one has a right to grade a president – even poor James Buchanan – who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions.”

While JFK’s view will never stop historians from ranking U.S. presidents from best to worst, he makes a good point that historical figures likely had good reasons for what they did, even if the end result was failure and their reputations were left in tatters. Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act or Thomas Jefferson’s failure to provide justice equally (even though he enshrined the equality of all in America’s founding documents) are explainable and understandable, even if they aren’t excusable.

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To explore this theme further is today’s guest is Jon Meacham, host of the new podcast, Reflections of History. Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, and several other biographies, presidential or otherwise.

We discuss the lasting legacies of Jefferson, Jackson, and other presidents who rose or fell to the moment. We also discuss which historical figures should get greater recognition, whether the aftermath of the Titanic gives us ideas on how to mourn national tragedies, and the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century, including, but not limited to, NATO, vaccines, the Space Race, and Jackie Robinson breaking down baseball’s color barrier and accelerating the Civil Rights Movement.

Cite This Article
"Making Sense of America’s Worst Moments: Understanding — But Not Excusing — Slavery and the Indian Removal Act" History on the Net
© 2000-2024, Salem Media.
June 15, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/making-sense-of-americas-worst-moments-understanding-but-not-excusing-slavery-and-the-indian-removal-act>
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