Related Lessons and Activities: Secondary
Past Presidents: Case Studies and Comparisons
American Experience: The Duel
The most famous duel in American history climaxed a longstanding conflict between two of the most important men in the country. Alexander Hamilton, an impoverished immigrant from the West Indies, rose to become a framer of the U.S. Constitution and the architect of America's political economy. Aaron Burr, grandson of the theologian Jonathan Edwards, served with distinction in the Revolutionary War and was nearly elected the nation's third president. In 1804 they met in a duel—an honor match that changed the course of American history.
American Experience: The Presidents
There is much to learn about the presidency by studying the men who occupied the office. All have been immensely different from one another. Woodrow Wilson, the peacemaker ; Kennedy, the Cold Warrior; Jimmy Carter the engineer; "Silent Cal" Coolidge and the bellicose Theodore Roosevelt. We've had Richard Nixon, the anti-communist and Ronald Reagan, the actor turned politician. All of the characters are complex and all of their stories surprising. Their lives and careers provide us a panoramic view of America.
(*There are separate plans for the following presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan.)
American Experience: TR, the Story of Teddy Roosevelt
TR looks deep into the life of the man who embodied the confidence, exuberance of America at the turn of the century, revealing both the heroic and the tragic sides of Roosevelt's character: the boundless energy that drove him, the bleak emotions he worked so hard to suppress, and the inevitable clash between the two.
Frontline: Jefferson's Blood
Moving back and forth between Jefferson's eighteenth-century world and the present day, "Jefferson's Blood" draws a complicated and compelling portrait of the contradictions in Thomas Jefferson's character, weighing the decisions he made in his private life with his public pronouncements on slavery and race-mixing. The documentary shows a Thomas Jefferson who we rarely confront—sharing Monticello with his white daughter and grandchildren while his unacknowledged mistress and his children by her worked in the same house as slaves.
This companion Web site to the Ken Burns documentary includes primary source documents, interviews with presidential historians, and a photo essay on "the pursuit of happiness."
PBS Mathline: Pythagoras and President Garfield
Analyze President Garfield's proof of the Pythagorean Theorem.
PBS Mathline: The White House Blue Room
Practice graphing ellipses by learning more about the Blue Room in the White House.
General Curricular Resources
The American President
Each of the Web site's installments presents the stories of several presidents, linked by a common theme. FAMILY TIES and HAPPENSTANCE, for example, are presented under the umbrella title A MATTER OF DESTINY. FAMILY TIES investigates the fact that power and influence, even in a democracy, are handed down from generation to generation in a few privileged families. Profiled are John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Harrison, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. HAPPENSTANCE explores the careers of five presidents—John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, and Harry Truman—who moved from the vice presidency to the White House upon the death of the president.
Character Above All
This 1996 Web site explores the importance of personal character and moral integrity in presidential leadership. The questions are many and varied. Questions like: Does character matter above all else? If so, how do we measure and and judge character? What does history tell us about presidential character? And, by the way, please define what is meant by "character?" Is there a difference, for instance, between personal character and political character? Does personal character have only to do with sex and infidelity? Nine presidential historians, writers and others share their research and study or experience with one or more of the last ten presidents of the United States.
Frontline: So You Want To Buy A President?
In recent elections, fewer than .33% of Americans made a political contribution of $200 or more. But some of those people who did contribute gave a lot. Who are they? Why do they give? And most importantly, what do they get in return? Those are the questions correspondent Robert Krulwich set out to answer in "So You Want To Buy A President?" Krulwich and company spent months interviewing politicians, campaign insiders, big contributors, campaign finance experts, and studying federal records. These pages contain some of what they learned about the "rules of the game."