Time Period: 1902-1974
Themes: aviation, heroism, privacy and the media, World War II and the
At 25, Charles A. Lindbergh arrived in Paris, the first man to fly across the
Atlantic--handsome, talented, and brave--a hero. But the struggle to wear the
mantle of legend would be a consuming one. Crowds pursued him, reporters
invaded his private life. His marriage, travels with his wife and the
kidnapping and murder of their first child were all fodder for the front
- Discuss the question "What makes a hero?" Have students suggest
several individuals whom they consider to be heroes. Have them examine their
choices, writing a list of qualities or accomplishments that they consider
heroic. Help students understand that the concept of heroism is personal;
people do not always share the same heroes or even the same definition of
- Discuss documentary filmmaking with students. Ask them what sources a
filmmaker might use in a film about a historic figure and write their
suggestions on the chalkboard [sources could include historical footage and
newsreels; photographs; interviews with contemporaries, family members, or
historians; contemporary newspapers; etc.] Remind students that evidence
presented in a film can help us draw conclusions about an individual or event.
As students watch the film, have them look at the sources of information and
consider these as they try to draw a conclusion about Charles Lindbergh's
career and historic importance.
- What conclusion did you draw about Charles Lindbergh? Was he a hero?
Could you consider someone a hero if you disagreed with his or her political
ideas or behavior in their private life?
- Do you think that Lindbergh's beliefs, such as those on white
supremacy and marriage, reflected America's thinking at the time? If yes, how
does that affect how you judge Lindbergh's character?
- Have students identify which of Lindbergh's traits and accomplishments
are best remembered. Then have students interview three people who remember
Lindbergh. Students should compare each subject's opinion of Lindbergh. Have
the class work together to create a portrait of the Lindbergh that lives in the
popular imagination today.
- Today, as in Lindbergh's day, the media often expose public figures to
constant attention which can become harassment. Debate the following
proposition within your class: Freedom of the press is a constitutional
right. Therefore, the media should be allowed to do whatever is necessary to
get a story.
- It is 10:22pm on May 21, 1927. You are a radio reporter witnessing the
dramatic completion of Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. Write and
record your broadcast to your listeners, describing Lindbergh's arrival as well
as the crowd's reaction. You might also include an interview with Lindbergh
- Although Bruno Hauptmann was convicted and executed for the murder of
the Lindberghs' first child, the case has remained controversial to this day.
Hauptmann's widow has fought to have his name cleared, and many people believe
that circumstantial evidence was used to make Hauptmann a scapegoat. Research
the trial and evidence, and present the class with your own opinion about
Hauptmann's guilt or innocence.