Presidential historian Jon Meacham speaks at DNC 2020

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham discusses the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and how voters can “write the next chapter of the American story.”
4:41 | 08/21/20

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Transcript for Presidential historian Jon Meacham speaks at DNC 2020
I'm historian John Beecham. In his final Sunday sermon days before his death Martin Luther King Jr. said. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny. This is the way got universe is made this is the way it is structured. A single garment of destiny. We need a people cannot escape that reality. Norris Lincoln taught us can you and I escape history. And we shouldn't want to for many of us have been given much liberty. Opportunity. A sense of possibility. The task of our time is to make sure those gifts are available not just the folks who look like me but to all of us. This is a great moment in America. A deadly virus is ravishing that's our jobs are evaporating. Our faith in the things that bind us together spraying for our democracy is under assault from an incumbent more interest and it himself. India's than the rest of us. Extremism native has them isolationism. And a lack of economic opportunity for working people. Are all preventing us from realizing our nation's promise and so we must decide. Whether we will continue to be prisoners of the darkest of American forces. Or will we free ourselves to write a brighter better no cooler story. That's the issue of this election. A choice that goes straight to the nature of the soul of America. Humankind has long viewed the soul as the vital center the Cold War the essence of existence. The soul is what makes us us. In his finest hours America's soul as an animated by the proposition that we are all created equal. And by the inherited to ensure. That we are treated equally. Yet America is a mix of light and shadow. Seneca falls and Selma and Stonewall dwell on the American soul. But so did the impulses that have given us slavery segregation. And systemic discrimination. Often we prefer to hear the trumpets. Rather than face the tragedies. But an honest accounting of who we fan. Can enable us to see who we should be. A country driven by the best parts of our soul not by the worst. A country informed by reason and candor. Not by ego and lies. A country that's big hearted not narrow minded. The struggle to be who we ought to be is difficult demanding. And ongoing. Justice can be elusive. And change in America has been painful and provisional. The civil war led to segregation. The new deal to right wing reaction civil rights white backlash. Yet history which will surely be our judge. Can also be our guide. From Harriet Tubman to Alice Paul to John Lewis from the beaches of Normandy the rending of the iron curtain. Our story has soared. When we've built bridges not walls. When we Walesa hand not what we've pointed fingers. When we've hoped. Not feared. If we live in hope we open our souls to the power of love. We've been taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. As individuals and as a nation however we fail at following that commandment more often than we succeed. But when we fail we must try again and again and again. For only in trial is progress possible. From Jamestown forward. Our story has become Fuller and fair because of people who share a conviction that Doctor King articulated. On that Sunday half a century ago. The arc of the moral universe is long. But it bends toward justice. Indeed that art requires all sorts it requires we the people. And it requires a president of the United States with empathy. Grace. A big heart and an open mind. Joseph Biden will be such a president. With our voices and our votes let us now write the next chapter of the American story. One of hope both love. Our justice. If we do so we might fists save our country. And Parcells.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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