<>“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
To Date 42 men have taken that oath to become President Of The United States. While our current president is #43, Grover Cleveland’s terms did not run consecutively and so he often is counted twice. From George Washington to George W. Bush our country has seen feast and famine, good times and bad, and extraordinary leaders and some, let’s just say, leave much to be desired. This American Experience PBS collection covers 10 of the most important from the 20th Century: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson,
The programs have aired on PBS as far back as 1989. They appear to be honest efforts at fairness while not becoming useless fluff pieces at the same time. The style is respectful but candid. The efforts do a nice job of putting each of these administrations into the context of their times. I was particularly impressed with the level of honesty associated with JFK. Too often his legacy has been shrouded in an almost religious fervor. Documentarians have tread lightly on this legacy for fear of reprisals. You will find these features to be academically sound. For me, however, it’s all about the primary sources. It’s the speeches and newsreel stuff that is the real treasure here. I’ve studied these men for decades on my own. I don’t need someone telling me what to think about them. Let me see them in action, and you will with this set. It should occupy a space in every American History or Government classroom in this nation.
There really isn’t one way to describe the quality of these presentations. Obviously the very old footage is in pretty rough shape. Most of it is in full frame format, but there are newer clips and pieces in widescreen. You can expect the condition to improve with the more recent items, and that’s pretty much what you get. None of it is excellent, but you can’t expect it to be. Just enjoy history unfolding right before your eyes and make allowances for the condition of the print.
Again the audio depends on what you are watching and how old it is. The Bush feature is the only one to feature Dolby Digital 5.1 but it’s not like you’ll notice much difference. This is all dialog, and you can hear it in as good a condition as some of it is likely to ever be.
All of these features include a PDF teaching guide with printable materials to use in the classroom along with the features. The rest of the features I will list for the President they are associated with.
Woodrow Wilson: There are over 90 minutes of mini-documentaries on some of the issues of that time including women’s suffrage and labor rights. The footage also includes interviews with the crew that created the documentary.
The Kennedys: Historian Robert Dallek talks about the Kennedy few of us really knew. This disc also includes an interactive Kennedy family tree.
Every home should have some reference material on the Presidency. It’s kind of your civic duty. Now PBS made it easier for you. If you’re not the book study type, you can watch it on your television. As we approach another election year and the certainty of a new President, what better time to bone up on those that came before? Enjoy these real life stories of “persistence, success, and frustrations”.