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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

Act 2... What's Your Legacy?


At the end of "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original" author Stefan Kanfer says of Elbert Hubbard, "He was a great, great believer in Act II. That’s his real legacy." Kanfer was referring to the "fresh start" that Hubbard found in his life in East Aurora after he left the Larkin Company. In this activity, students will explore the concept of "Act II" in terms of Hubbard’s life and work. They will apply what they learn about Hubbard’s legacy to their own lives, and to the lives of other great philanthropists.


Students will:
  • Define what is meant by Elbert Hubbard's "Act II."
  • Use research skills to find information about people who have created a meaningful legacy which has had an impact on society.
  • Transfer knowledge and understanding of Hubbard's life and legacy to their own lives through the creation of their own legacy statements.

Necessary Materials

  • Video: "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original"
  • Internet connectivity

Relevant National Standards:
NSS-C.9-12.5, NL-ENG.K-12.2, K-12.6, K-12.8, K-12.11, K-12.12

Teaching Procedure

  • Have students watch the chapter titled "A Pilgrimage" from "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original" ( starting at 5:40, with the narrator’s statement: "With his popularity at its peak, the national press asked Hubbard to write about the tragic sinking of the Titanic." Continue to watch through until the end of the entire program (Approximately 10 minutes).
    Possible discussion questions:
    - Why do you think Hubbard was so moved by the story of Isador Strauss and his wife Ida, passengers on the Titanic?
    - Hubbard wrote "Mr. and Mrs. Strauss, I envy the legacy of loyalty and love you left to your children and grandchildren. You knew three great things – you knew how to live, how to love and how to die. Few have such a privilege." Do you think Elbert Hubbard knew that privilege? Why? Do you know anyone who had this privilege? Tell how they fit this definition and lived their life? What can we learn from them?
    - How does the phrase "Act II" apply to Hubbard's life? How does it apply to the Roycroft campus and community?
  • Discuss the meaning of the word "legacy." Working in small groups, students will research one of the following people who have created a legacy in the form of a vibrant, ongoing organization or institution:
    • Andrew Carnegie, Jacques Cousteau, Henry Ford, Bill and Melinda Gates, J. Paul Getty, Paul David Hewson (aka Bono), Eli Lilly, John Muir, Alfred Nobel, John D. Rockefeller, James Smithson, Oprah Winfrey.
    • An excellent place to start is your library's print or online general encyclopedia.
  • The groups will report back to the class. Discuss common threads in the lives and legacies of these people/organizations.
  • Students will write a "legacy statements." Teachers will determine what this statement will describe. Possible options include:
    • Write about the legacy that you as a student would like to leave behind in your high school.
    • The phrase "Act II" is a metaphor that compares the stages of life to the acts of a play. Most plays have anywhere from three to five acts. If high school is your Act I, what will your Act II be?
    • What do you think you will be doing in 20 years or what do you want to accomplish that will be remembered?
    • Write about or interview a family member that has led a positive Act II in his or her life. What do they attribute it to? What advice do they have? How do they hope to be remembered?
  • Assessment

    • Group reports
    • Legacy Statements

    Extension Activities:

    • Work with the school librarian to create a legacy program in which a student or family may donate a book to the library that speaks to that student's talents or interests. Work with the art teacher to have students design a special book plate to commemorate these donations to the collection.

    Suggested Vocabulary: legacy, philanthropist

    Online Sources: A&E Television, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

    Famous and Celebrity Philanthropists. Foundation Center, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010.

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Funding for Elbert Hubbard: An American Original provided by The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original is a production of WNED-TV