WASHINGTON – Washington National Cathedral [on 10 March 2021] announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and writer Jon Meacham has been named Canon Historian of the Cathedral. The first to hold this title, as Canon Historian, Meacham will preach and lead public conversations several times a year on issues of faith, spirituality and civic life.
He is the first leader appointed to help shape the Cathedral College of Faith & Culture—a hub for Cathedral programming around public engagement, culture and leadership—that will find a home in the Virginia Mae Center, which is currently under construction and expected to open in late 2022.
The National Cathedral confers the title “Honorary Canon” to distinguished leaders, lay or clerical, who have contributed to the mission of the Cathedral as a house of prayer for all people and a sacred space for the nation to gather. Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith and Bishop of Washington Mariann Edgar Budde, along with the Cathedral Chapter—the Cathedral’s governing board—agreed unanimously on Meacham’s appointment as Canon Historian.
“For many years, we in the Cathedral community have been fortunate to count Jon as a friend, guest preacher, and trusted counsel on matters of faith, spirituality and civic life,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral. “Now, we are delighted to welcome him officially as the Canon Historian of the Cathedral. In his new role, we look forward to Jon’s ability to enlighten and to elucidate, bringing together his rare insights on history, theology, culture and the American story.”
Meacham is a distinguished writer, historian, editor and scholar of American politics and public life, focusing on leadership and American history. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2009 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, and has authored or co-authored 12 books in all, including three presidential biographies. Meacham was a close confidant to former President George H. W. Bush—the subject of his 2015 biography Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush—and Meacham eulogized Bush at his funeral at the National Cathedral in 2018. Meacham occasionally advises President Joe Biden.
“To say I am honored by the Cathedral’s invitation to play this role is an understatement. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that the duty of the Christian is not to succeed, but to fail cheerfully; and by that standard I am a very cheerful Christian,” said Jon Meacham, Canon Historian. “I owe the Episcopal Church in particular and the Anglican tradition more broadly enormous debts, and I am at once humbled and excited by the gracious opportunity to offer whatever I can to the unfolding work of the Cathedral and of the whole Church in this hour.”
Meacham will debut as Canon Historian as part of the Cathedral’s “Honest to God” series on March 23, 2021, when he discusses the legacy of the late Congressman John Lewis. He will be joined by Lewis’ two chiefs of staff, Michael Collins and Linda Earley Chastang, to discuss Meacham’s newest book, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope.
During his open-ended term as Canon Historian, Meacham will continue as the Rogers Chair in the American Presidency and co-chair of the Project on Unity and American Democracy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. In his new role, he will preach from the Cathedral’s pulpit, lead discussions with clergy and thought leaders on matters of public interest, and help steward the Cathedral’s unique mission as an institution that sits at the intersection of the sacred and the civic. While the Cathedral remains closed to the public due to the pandemic, Meacham’s events and programming will be held virtually, and can be accessed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.