A speech that reads well is only halfway there. It must also engage the ear. Does it cohere for the listener? Is it natural to the speaker? How do the images and metaphors build? Does it crest like a wave? The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jon Meacham—the man behind biographies of Thomas Jefferson, John Lewis, and historical books on all things American—is switching mediums for his new area of focus: essential speeches. Ranging from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (1968) to John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (1961), this 10-part documentary podcast series offers a history of the United States through the speeches that shaped it. Footage of the speeches themselves, and invited guests, are part of Meacham’s fascinating analysis. —J.V.