The Artifacts of Character


FRONTLINE’s “Artifacts of Character,” is a series of rarely seen documents, photos, speeches and other objects that pinpoint seminal moments for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Published over the past three weeks, each artifact sheds light on a different aspect of the candidates’ lives: how they came of age and went on to college, weathered early political losses, and rebounded to define their paths to power.

Taken together, the collection offers new insights into who these men are, and what they have come to represent.

Each week FRONTLINE asked a group of the country’s leading journalists covering the candidates to weigh in the artifacts.

“Obama absolutely hates the idea that he is an actor.”– Jodi Kantor, author The Obamas

“Romney’s reluctance to talk about Mormonism … cost him the chance to tell his most compelling stories.”– Jason Horowitz, The Washington Post

Read the discussion >

Barack Obama’s Early Poetry

Mitt Romney Protesting the Protesters

Listen to Obama Make the Case for Activism

When Mitt Romney Bet on Staples

Each week FRONTLINE asked a group of the country’s leading journalists covering the candidates to weigh in the artifacts.

“The race reopened some of Obama’s old wounds – what was his identity?”–Scott Helman, The Boston Globe

“The earnestness; the penmanship; the overall Autobiography of Ben Franklin self-improvement checklist. It adds to the feeling that [Romney] is a ‘good’ man”– James Fallows, The Atlantic

Read the discussion >

Mitt Romney on the “Businesses” of Life

In the Classroom with Professor Obama

Romney Takes On Kennedy

Obama’s First Big Loss

Each week FRONTLINE asked a group of the country’s leading journalists covering the candidates to weigh in the artifacts.

“He was interested in saving the Games, yes, but he was also keenly interested in maximizing publicity for Mitt Romney.”–Scott Helman, The Boston Globe

“[Romney's] father understood that the most important convert Mitt was making was himself.”–Jason Horowitz, The Washington Post

“‘I walk into a room and make promises I hope they can help me keep.’ Is that not a wonderful, raw distillation of the Obama ethos?”–Scott Helman, The Boston Globe

“But it also gets to some other parts of Obama’s personality which can work at cross purposes: overconfidence combined with a reluctance to confront.”–David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Story

Read the discussion >

Mitt Romney’s Olympic Pins

Obama’s Big Political Play

Letters From Romney’s Mission to France

Obama’s Early Impressions of Chicago

A Governor’s Legacy

Portrait of a Future President

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