The Bush Center hosts ‘The People, the Presidency and the Press,’ celebrates 100 years of Pulitzer Prizes

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By Lisa Salinas and Olivia Nguyen

Editor’s note, June 5, 10:12 a.m.: The original version of this story included a misquote from Ron Chernow. We apologize for the error. The post has now been updated.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted The People, the Presidency and the Press, a two-day symposium that celebrated 100 years of Pulitzer Prizes June 2-3.

The event discussed the tension between past presidents and people who elect them into office, which in turn, produced award-winning journalism, scholarship and art. Pulitzer Prize winners and 24 guest panelists, moderators and artists were invited to discuss their work and values it represents. It was presented by The Dallas Morning News in collaboration with the Pulitzer Prize Board, LBJ Foundation and George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

On June 2, The People, the Presidency and the Press explored past presidents’ leadership and character that impacted how Americans view democracy and government. The evening began with an introduction by former President George W. Bush leading into a performance by the Dallas Theatre Center of three Pulitzer-Prize winning excerpts which included: Abe Lincoln in Illinois 1939, Of Thee I Sing, 1932 and Hamilton, 2016.

A panel of presidential biographers followed the performance. The panel of authors included Jon Meacham, Annette Gordon-Reed and Ron Chernow and was moderated by Mark Updegrove. They discussed how they choose subjects to write about, the difference between writing about presidents who are alive versus ones who have passed and the psychology behind writing biographies.

Retired Dallas Federal Court judge, William Sanderson Jr., was one of the audience members on June 2.

“I am impressed; it was outstanding– really enjoyable and insightful,” Sanderson Jr. said, “It is always interesting to hear the creative mind being explored by the writers themselves.”

Fellow attendee Tim Smith agrees that the performance and panel did not disappoint.

“It was interesting,” Smith said, “The discussion, particularly with [Ron Chernow], was very good.”

Smith recognized that President Washington was more relatable than many portray him as.

“He talked a lot about how his personality, when he did research on him, was more life-like, more vivid, than the stoic image that most people have when they look at Washington. More humanizing,” Smith said.

However, the highlight of the night for Smith was the introduction by former President Bush.

“There was the surprise in the beginning by the introduction from former President George W. Bush,” Smith said.

Matt Ransdell, one of the performers of the night from the Dallas Theatre Center, also thought Bush’s appearance was unexpected.

“I think George W. Bush has the most notable laugh of all-time, and him being in the front row was one of the most nerve-wracking things,” Ransdell said.

Overall, the audience was responsive according to Randsell.

“The people were incredible; to rap and to have them vibe with it was really cool,” Randsell said.

Unlike June 2 which touched on one main topic, the second day of the symposium was filled with multiple panels covering a variety of topics throughout the day.

Subjects included media coverage in the digital age, the economic issue of poverty, journalism ethics and the future of American politics.

The hundreds of attendants, decorated panelists, guest speakers and Pulitzer Prize winners sparked incisive discussion on the future of American journalism, scholarship and art while simultaneously celebrating the centennial anniversary of Pulitzer Prizes at The People, the Presidency and the Press.

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