Historian and author Jon Meacham joins Yahoo News Editor in Chief Daniel Klaidman and Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff to discuss the merits and pitfalls of removing statues of figures with racist or otherwise problematic histories. Referring to the statue of President Andrew Jackson located in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Meacham, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” says that if Native American groups called for the statue’s removal, he would support them. However, Meacham says that he believes the focus should be on “addition as opposed to subtraction.”
MICHAEL ISIKOFF: You wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson. Across from the White House in Lafayette Square stands that bronze statue of Jackson on horseback. If Native Americans start demanding that Andrew Jackson's statue comes down, would you go along?
JON MEACHAM: Would I?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Would you-- would you approve of that?
JON MEACHAM: At this point, yes, probably. And here's why-- my test of statues on public land in places of clear veneration is were you devoted to the project of a constitutional journey toward a more perfect union? And if you were not, if you were Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or Nathan Bedford Forrest, god help us, you do not belong on public land, because if you had won, there would be no 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment. There would have been no country to project force across the Atlantic and the Pacific in the 20th century.
If you wanted to end the experiment, I think that-- I don't-- it's not my job to tell you what you do at your house or in your yard or a church or a school. But that's for those institutions. But on land that we pay for and that holds a common meaning to all of us, I think that that has to be the test.
So once that test is checked-- are you Jefferson, Jackson, Washington, Madison, whomever-- then you have to make a balance-- you have to make an assessment. And I think what I would rather see in Lafayette Park, if it were possible, would be addition as opposed to subtraction. Why can't we use this energy that's been created by the kind of culture you're talking about to commemorate figures from our national story who have not been commemorated?