Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

James Monroe: The Forrest Gump of presidents

February 8, 2016 at 9:51 AM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

James Monroe had a knack for being present at famous moments in history — fighting alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, studying law under the mentorship of Thomas Jefferson, watching Napoleon Bonaparte crown himself emperor in France, serving as U.S. president during the Missouri Compromise.

For this week's episode of the Presidential podcast, we explore the varied career of the nation's fifth president, who was also the last of the Founding Fathers to serve in the Oval Office. The episode features Oxford University's Jay Sexton; The Washington Post's business and national economy editor, Gregory Schneider; the Library of Congress's Julie Miller; the Monroe Museum's Scott Harris; and Daniel Preston, the editor of the Monroe papers.

The Presidential podcast, consisting of 44 episodes leading up to election day in November, examines the leadership and legacy of each of the American presidents. In previous episodes, we explored topics like the mythology of George Washington and why John Adams doesn't have a monument. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president — effective or ineffective, esteemed or forgotten — has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

Want to learn more about James Monroe? Listen to the fifth episode of Presidential here:


Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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