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The Presidents Connect today's election issues with the past

Richard M. Nixon
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Richard M. Nixon
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Program Summary  |  Discussion Questions  |  For the Classroom
Did You Know?  |  World Timeline  |  In "Quotes"

Discussion Questions

These questions will help students explore the major ideas and themes in the video. See the Program Summary for descriptions of specific program segments.

Before Watching
1. Before viewing the film, ask students what they know about Richard Nixon and the issues facing America in the 1970s. Create a word web of images and ideas. (Note: You may want to supply photographs and other visual aids for the web that will help students to brainstorm.) As they watch the program have students take notes on what they might want to add to the web.

2. Read the following Nixon quotation to the class, or write it on the chalkboard: "I'm fundamentally relatively shy. It doesn't come naturally to me to be a buddy-buddy boy... I can't really let my hair down with anyone." As students watch the program, ask them to consider whether or not Nixon had an accurate view of himself. Have students take notes on how they would describe or define Nixon's character. How did his personality help him achieve success? How did it contribute to his downfall?

3. In preparation for watching the film, review with students key dates and events in the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1960 to 1968. Create a chart with the timeline as a heading. Divide the rest of the chart into three columns. Have students contribute what they have learned about the policies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the first two columns. Label the third column "Nixon." As students watch the program, have them take notes about Nixon's policies and actions to add to the timeline and the "Nixon" column.

After Watching
1. Refer students back to the word web that you created together before watching the program. Ask students what they would like to add or change. Do students still feel the same way about Nixon as they did before watching? What did students learn from the film that surprised them the most?

2. Ask students for their assessment of Nixon's presidency. What were his major accomplishments? Aside from Watergate, what were his major failures? How do students think Americans would view Nixon today if the Watergate affair had never occurred?

3. Ask students to recall how anti-communism helped shape Nixon's career from his early campaigns to HUAC to Vietnam. Despite his fervent anti-communist stance, Nixon made history by opening the door to China and Russia. How do students think Nixon might explain this apparent contradiction?


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