Commemorating Presidents’ Day Through AAPB Programming

George Washington’s birthday, also known as Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors presidents of the United States, past and present, and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has preserved historic public radio and television programs that highlight the lives and legacies of America’s presidents.

From President Washington to President Trump, public broadcasting has captured and shared commentary on the contributions of those in America’s highest position. Below is a chronological selection of programs related to, or featuring, most of America’s 45 presidents. All programs are available in AAPB’s Online Reading Room at americanarchive.org thanks to AAPB’s contributing stations.

1789-1797 | George Washington

His Excellency George Washington (2004) produced by WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois) speaks with the Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Joseph J. Ellis on the life of America’s first president.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-000000084f

1797-1801 | John Adams

Produced by Rocky Mountain PBS (Denver, Colorado), an episode on Foreign Policy and John Adams (1987) details John Adams presidency and international relations.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_52-75r7szs2

1801-1809 | Thomas Jefferson

Interview with Karen Hughes White (1998), archivist and founder of the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, from WGBH‘s (Boston, Massachusetts) Africans in America.

Ms. White is interviewed about Thomas Jefferson as a man of his time and the owner of her slave ancestors.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-7m03x84j26

1809-1817 | James Madison

Produced by Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University (Stanford, California), this 2010 program explores Bob Barr: James Madison and the Original Federalists – Where Are They When We Need Them?:

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_514-z02z31pn0t

1817-1825 | James Monroe

Form 1961, Contemporary revolution in Latin America; United States and Latin America, part 1, a radio program produced by University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland), discusses the initial reaction of Latin America to the Monroe Doctrine.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-00003k7q

1825-1829 | John Quincy Adams

Elderly Care; Adams produced by WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts).

WGBH Journal reports on the birthplace of John Quincy Adams, home to two of America’s presidents — John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, in this episode of Elderly Care; Adams (1978) produced by WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-73pvmvcv

1829-1837 | Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson (1987) produced by Rocky Mountain PBS (Denver, Colorado) discusses the major differences of Andrew Jackson as compared to his predecessors.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_52-89280rcp

1837-1941 | Martin Van Buren

New York NOW‘s episode titled Caption Master #38 (2010) was produced by WMHT (Troy, New York) and visits the home of Martin Van Buren, and focuses on why Van Buren’s presidency was perhaps one of the most unsuccessful during his time.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-0966t2hw

‘New York NOW’ is New York State’s Emmy-nominated, in-depth public affairs program, featuring news, interviews and analysis from the Capitol. Each week, the program probes politicians, civil servants, journalists and others as they examine the impact of public policy on residents of the Empire State.

1845-1849 | James K. Polk

Landmarks of the Old Oregon County (1991) produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, Oregon) examines the ramifications of James K. Polk’s decision to sign a bill making Oregon a territory.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_153-46d25bh4

1849-1850 | Zachary Taylor

Workshop in practical politics, The role of minority parties in American Politics (1954) produced by WNYC (New York, New York) looks at 1848, when the Free Soil party formed from the Liberty party and swung the election to Zachary Taylor.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_510-696zw19b2j

1850-1853 | Millard Fillmore

New York NOW’s Caption Master #45 (2010) produced by WMHT (Troy, New York) discussed Millard Fillmore as the last Whig president in the White House.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-98z8wm7

‘New York NOW’ is New York State’s Emmy-nominated, in-depth public affairs program, featuring news, interviews and analysis from the Capitol. Each week, the program probes politicians, civil servants, journalists and others as they examine the impact of public policy on residents of the Empire State.

1861-1865 | Abraham Lincoln

This programming includes a recorded lecture by Dr. Eric Foner on The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln, Slavery and the Rights of Black Americans; Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010) produced by WUSF (Tampa, Florida).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_304-3331zrwh

1869-1877 | Ulysses S. Grant

In the tumultuous years after the Civil War (1863-77), America grappled with how to rebuild itself, how to successfully bring the South back into the Union and how to bring former slaves into the life of the country. Among other things, Dr. Eric Foner talks about the election of Ulysses S. Grant in American Experience‘s Reconstruction: The Second Civil War ((c) 2004-2017), WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-qf8jd4qs46

1877-1881 | Rutherford B. Hayes

North Carolina People with host William Friday (2004) speaks with an historian Kenan, Professor of History from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, from UNC-TV (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_129-bc3st7f19c

North Carolina People is a talk show hosted by William Friday. Each episode features an in-depth conversation with a person from or important to North Carolina.

1881| James Garfield

This 1987 episode from Iowa Press of Iowa Public Television (Johnston, Iowa)Presidential hopeful Richard Gephardt discusses Democratic nominations in the 1998 presidential election with an historical footnote to James Garfield’s jump from the House of Representatives to the White House in 1880.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-182jmb6n

1881-1885 | Chester A. Arthur

In this episode of Pantechnicon, political historians draw parallels to Chester Arthur who had become president on the death of President Garfield. Pantechnicon from WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts) is a nightly magazine featuring segments on issues, arts, and ideas in New England.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-032287k6

1885-1889 / 1893-1897 |Grover Cleveland

Chrysti The Wordsmith from KGLT (Bozeman, Montana) tells the public how the term ‘Baby Ruth’ originated with President Grover Cleveland.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_309-43nvx4j7

1889-1893 |Benjamin Harrison

This segment of Oklahoma Heritage Film on the Land Run from OETA (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) discusses the legal basis for opening the Oklahoma District, now called the Unassigned Lands put into effect in 1889 when the U.S. Congress and Illinois Representative William Springer amended the Indian Appropriations Bill to authorize Pres. Benjamin Harrison to proclaim the two-million-acre region open for settlement. This covers the land run for the unassigned land in Indian Territory, David Payne and his Boomers, the Chisholm Trail, and Cowboys. Native American life prior to the land run is covered and addressed.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_521-zk55d8pq3m

1897-1901 | William McKinley

This program focuses on songs that tell stories of historical interest from the turn of the 20th century. In 1966, the program discussed the assassination of William McKinley, produced by University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-mk658d16

1901-1909 |Theodore Roosevelt

From WMHT (Troy, New York), ‘New York NOW’ (2009) discusses the life and contributions of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-38w9gndg

1913-1921 |Woodrow Wilson

From Wisconsin College of the Air (1973), Wisconsin Public Radio (Madison, Wisconsin) discusses American history from 1876, including the The Progressive Movement including Woodrow Wilson.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_30-773tz9cc

1923-1929 |Calvin Coolidge

In this 1997 segment of People Near Here from Mountain Lake PBS (Plattsburgh, New York), “meet a fellow with one of the rarest and almost priceless collections of autographs to be found anywhere; from Abraham Lincoln to Dr. Seuss.” Including tips on how to collect famous signatures and how to spot the forgeries of famous presidents such as Calvin Coolidge.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_113-472v74k2

1929-1933 |Herbert Hoover

Assignment Iowa produced by Iowa Public Television (Johnston, Iowa) is a magazine featuring segments on a different aspect of Iowa culture and history each episode including this segment on the Hoover Library (1976).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-322bvt3f

1933-1945 |Franklin D. Roosevelt

The television series Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. was a venue for debate and discussion on political, social, and philosophical issues with experts of the day. Guest Mr. Prichard was a “dazzlingly Bright Young Man” when he went to Washington in 1940; he never came to the prominence predicted for him because in 1949 he was convicted of vote fraud for stuffing a ballot box. Contributed by Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University (Stanford, California), this 1982 talks about the days he made it to Washington D.C. and worked for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_514-r49g44jn80

1945-1953 |Harry S. Truman

Guests in this 2002 episode of Evening Exchanged from WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia) discuss Harry S. Truman’s involvement with the Civil Rights movement and the speech he gave at Howard University.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_293-tm71v5c08d

1953-1961 |Dwight D. Eisenhower

This 1961 from KUHT, contributed by the University of Houston (Houston, Texas), includes Dwight D. Eisenhower’s last news conference as President of the United States with reflections on his years as President, presidential term limits, and the incoming administration.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_513-dj58c9s83k

1961-1963 |John F. Kennedy

Contributed by Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University (Stanford, California) (2003), this recording includes a talk on the life and administration of President Kennedy.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_514-sq8qb9w46s

1963-1969 |Lyndon B. Johnson

From WYSO (Yellow Springs, Ohio) (1966), President Johnson spoke at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Dayton, Ohio about about how the youth will shape their ideals and philosophy. He voiced concern that willful violence or willful indifference can tear a country apart by slow eroding confidence and regard for each other, and suggested that the nation needed to give youth more than just a right to decent meaning not just give them an opportunity to declare against something but a chance to declare for something.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_27-v40js9hs79

1969-1974 |Richard M. Nixon

“Gavel-to-Gavel”: The Watergate Scandal and Public Curated Exhibit

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/exhibits/watergate

In February 1973, James Karayn, the president of the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT), public broadcasting’s unit in Washington responsible for producing national news-related programming, had the daring idea of broadcasting the Senate Watergate hearings in full, or “gavel-to-gavel,” rebroadcasting each day’s complete proceedings in the evening for those unable to watch during the day. The result was one of the most popular series in public broadcasting history. Viewers were captivated by the memorable personalities behind the senators’ table, the stories—equal parts fantastical, banal, and horrifying—told by the witnesses before the Committee, and the revelations that threatened to force President Richard Nixon out of office. And through it all, they had the steady, balanced commentary of anchors Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, who stowed their editorializing to allow viewers to come to their own conclusions.

This online exhibit presenting the evening rebroadcasts (as well as the subsequent broadcasts of the House Impeachment hearings) will allow contemporary viewers to experience the hearings as so many did in 1973, in full, “gavel-to-gavel.”

1974-1977 |Gerald R. Ford

In An Exclusive Interview with President Gerald Ford (1976) produced by New Mexico PBS discusses topics such as gun registries, increasing home ownership, Boston school bussing and court-ordered racial integration, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union, U.S. military preparedness, and the U.S. providing nuclear reactors to South Africa. The second half of the episode provides excerpts from President Ford’s recent speech. Contributed by PBS SoCaL (Costa Mesa, California).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_221-94vhj11d

1977-1981 |James Carter

This 1977 episode of the The MacNeil/Lehrer Report features a discussion on Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Style with guests such as Helen Heller, Jim Black, Elizabeth Erfle, Mike Russi, John Cullen, Toni Nash, Delores Shannon, Barbara Bishop, Henry Szulinski, Terry Schmidt, Helen Williams, Jim Wesley. Contributed by National Records and Archives Administration(Washington, District of Columbia).

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-ks6j09ww93

1981-1989 |Ronald Reagan

Iowa Public Television (Johnston, Iowa) re-broadcast 1982 coverage of Ronald Regan’s address to the Iowa legislature.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-94vhj07f

1989-1993 | George H. W. Bush

Below is a curated selection of programs with, or related to, George H.W. Bush beginning with his role as CIA Director, then on to his presidential campaigns, moderated debates, and the local reactions to his impact as a leading politician. All programs are available online thanks to the listed contributing stations.

Direct link: https://americanarchivepb.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/remembering-george-h-w-bush-through-public-broadcasting/

1993-2001 |William J. Clinton

This 1987 interview with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas from South Carolina ETV (Columbia, South Carolina), captures a moment when Clinton was in his fourth term as the state’s governor and was considering a run for the democratic nomination for president.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_41-881jxfq8

2001-2009 |George W. Bush

From The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer contributed by the NewsHour Productions(Washington, District of Columbia), this 2000 episode includes an interview from the campaign trail in North Carolina with Governor George W. Bush who discusses American political culture, Social Security, and his qualifications for President.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-rr1pg1jf90

2009-2017 |Barack Obama

From New Hampshire Public Radio (Concord, New Hampshire) in 2007, Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, took host and caller questions about his campaign and policy positions. Obama addressed criticisms about his lack of experience to be president, his plan to end the Iraq War while ensuring the region remains safe and stable; resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict, healthcare reform vs. universal healthcare, funding his clean energy plan, investing in scientific research, federal recognition for civil unions, and his readiness to combat Republican attacks should he be the Democratic nominee.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_503-q23qv3cs75

2017-present |Donald J. Trump

Contributed by Internet Archive (San Francisco, California), President Donald Trump delivers an address to a joint session of Congress, telecast from the House chamber in 2017.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_525-251fj2b742