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The Presidents Connect today's election issues with the past

About the Series

Henry Adams, the American historian and the grandson and great-grandson of presidents, said the president "resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek."

Each of our presidents has taken America on a different voyage — voyages shaped by how each sitting president has defined the institution of the presidency.

Some have been more bold than others — working to mold public opinion and actively pushing their programs through Congress. Others have not ventured far — feeling that presidential intervention often causes more problems than it solves.

One can look at the presidency in the 20th century and through the office see the drama of contemporary American history — war, economic hardship, women's rights, race relations, our triumphs and our failures — it is all there.

The Programs

In 1990 American Experience unveiled Nixon to the accolades of the press and the public. This film, about one of the nation's most controversial political figures, marked the beginning of a unprecedented examination of America in the 20th century.

The series followed with:

In all, The Presidents is comprised of 52 hours of broadcast programming detailing the lives of people who collectively held the most powerful office in the world.


The Presidents series was honored in 1997 with a George Foster Peabody Award. The citation read:

Each program is an exquisite production; together, they represent a rich and valuable body of work, presenting a perfect blend of cinematic technique, historical perspective and compelling narrative.... Much as the presidencies themselves provide a framework for modern American history, these films stand for time as a major part of the public record of these very public lives...

Honors for individual programs have come from the Alfred I. duPont/Columbia Journalism Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, the CINE Gold Eagle, Writer's Guild, the Gold Hugo, the National Education Association, and others.

The Web Site

This Presidents Web site presents over 25 hours of Presidents programming as streaming video. It also builds on the enormous collection of research materials developed for the award-winning broadcasts.

The site includes a summary page for each chief executive, provides Featured Presidents, an in-depth look at the presidents in the broadcast series line-up, and includes links to presidential sites, a detailed bibliography, collections of primary sources, and more.

Of special note is an expanded Teacher's Guide for each of the featured presidents, which provides instructional activities and suggestions for using the programs in the classroom.


Major funding provided by the National
Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

NEH Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web site do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.