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Jon Meacham on the NBC News set outside the funeral of Sen. John McCain, at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

For the finale of the Democratic National Convention, historian Jon Meacham will speak from Nashville, urging Americans to remember that "history, which will surely be our judge, can also be our guide. ... From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, we're at our best when we build bridges, not walls."

The assignment from the Democratic Party was spare yet daunting: Define "The Soul of America," the title of Meacham's 2018 bestseller. Oh, and please keep it under five minutes.

Previewing his remarks, Meacham, who also eulogized George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush in 2018, told me the common denominator of the best of American history is liberation and hope, not fear and selfishness:

It's not a partisan issue. Presidents from Truman to Reagan to Bush 41 prevailed in the Cold War, which was about freedom versus tyranny. And at home, do you want to be Bull Connor, or John Lewis? Joe McCarthy, or Margaret Chase Smith? Do you want to tear down, or do you want to build?

Meacham speaks from his library, surrounded by photos and posters from past presidential campaigns — including a portrait of Lewis, Meacham's latest subject ("His Truth Is Marching On," out Tuesday).

  • "By habit, I see the world historically and theologically," said Meacham, a devout Episcopalian and author of 10 books. "History and theology tell us we're at our best when we look outward rather than inward."

Meacham's roots are in journalism: He said he's voted for candidates of both parties, and has never endorsed a candidate before.

  • "This president poses such a clear and present danger to the things we should value most that I think it's incumbent on all of us who believe that to say something."
  • "Joe Biden is a good man. We need him."
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Go deeper

The top Republicans who aren't voting for Trump in 2020

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said last week that he cannot support President Trump's re-election.

Why it matters: Hogan, a moderate governor in a blue state, joins other prominent Republicans who have publicly said they will either not vote for Trump's re-election this November or will back Biden.

White House nominates Rick Spinrad as NOAA leader

In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, a Cat. 4 storm, moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on September 2, 2019. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)

The White House on Thursday evening nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: Filling the NOAA slot would complete the Biden administration's leadership on the climate and environment team. The agency, located within the Commerce Department, houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation's climate science research.

2 hours ago - World

Israeli officials will object to restoration of Iran deal in D.C. visit

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: That position is similar to the one Israel took in the year before the 2015 nuclear deal was announced, which led to a rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. History could now repeat itself.