Hope. Equality. Freedom. Faith. Glory. Compromise. These are both keywords from your book titles and keystones of your vision of America.
Your books have taken us from the hustings of Gettysburg to the ramparts of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and taken the measure of this country at both its highest and lowest moments. For you, America is … well, complicated. Characteristically, the Pulitzer Prize jury praised your biography of Andrew Jackson as an “unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat, but a significantly transformative president.”
That phrase—“not always admirable, but transformative”—aptly describes the country you’ve shown us so unflinchingly. A country of virtues and flaws. Big ideas and sometimes small-mindedness. A nation made up of individual people, whose lives are buoyed by the swells and currents of history.
Your topics have ranged from Jesus on the cross to Nixon in the Oval Office. And your career choices have been almost as varied. In addition to a bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author you’ve been a Newsweek editor. Executive editor at Random House. Frequent guest on “Morning Joe.” And contributing writer, somehow, for both The New York Times Book Review and Garden & Gun Magazine.
In one venue after another you’ve explored the questions of who we are and what we’re about. You’ve sought the inner drama of a nation and its people in a continuous act of self-creation.
That process of self-invention is far from complete. Thank goodness you’ll be here to narrate the next chapter.
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 5, 2022