Rick Steves, Jon Meacham headline new San Joaquin Valley Town Hall lineup

The San Joaquin Valley Town Hall lecture series returns in full force for the 2021-2022 season following a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The monthly event at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno kicks off on Wednesday, Oct. 20, with author Jon Meacham. 

Meacham, an American historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will deliver his presentation titled “Songs of America: The Music That Made a Nation.” 

His talk will focus on the songs that define the American experience, based on the book Songs of America, with a patriotic presentation that showcases historic songs recorded by country music star Tim McGraw. 

Following Meacham’s opener, five other speakers will head to Saroyan Theatre through April of next year, with December being an off month. 

In November, Dr. Abraham Verghese will present “The Patient is the Story,” which will reveal why human touch and the patient’s story are vital to doctor-patient relationships. 

Verghese is a physician, professor and bestselling author, and his presentation will draw on history, literature and medical experience. 

After the new year, National Geographic nature photographer Joel Sartore will present “From Noah to Now: The Photo Ark,” which will focus on his 25 years documenting 12,000 vanishing species that live throughout zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. 

Ruth Reichl, the Editor-In-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, will follow up in February with “A Nation of Foodies,” which will explore America’s food journey and share her life lessons from the kitchen. 

In March, PBS travel star Rick Steves will present “Travel Like a Local,” showing Americans how to travel the world as “temporary locals” to provide better travel experiences. 

Humanitarian and violinist Vijay Gupta will wrap up the series in April with “Changing Lives, Note by Note.” Gupta’s message will show the power of music as an instrument for healing and problem solving. 

Each Town Hall will take place on the third Wednesday of each month and start at 10:30 a.m. 

All patrons will be required to show either proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to enter the Saroyan Theatre.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at