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 Washington to Trump, public broadcasting has shared commentary on the contributions of those in America’s highest position. Below is a 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.

George Washington | 1789-1797

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.

John Adams | 1797-1801

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.

Thomas Jefferson|1801-1809

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.

James Madison | 1809-1817

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.

James Monroe | 1817-1825

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.

John Quincy Adams | 1825-1829

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.

Andrew Jackson | 1829-1837

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.

Martin Van Buren | 1837-1941

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: https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-612ngmk7.

‘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.

James K. Polk | 1845-1849

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.

Zachary Taylor | 1849-1850

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.

Millard Fillmore |1850-1853

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: https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-98z8wm7p.

‘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.

Abraham Lincoln | 1861-1865

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.

Ulysses S. Grant | 1869-1877

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.

Rutherford B. Hayes | 1877-1881

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.

James Garfield | 1881

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.

Chester A. Arthur | 1881-1885

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.

Grover Cleveland | 1885-1889 & 1893-1897

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.

Benjamin Harrison | 1889-1893

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.

William McKinley | 1897-1901

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.

Theodore Roosevelt | 1901-1909

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.

Woodrow Wilson | 1913-1921

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.

Calvin Coolidge |1923-1929

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.

Herbert Hoover | 1929-1933

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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt | 1933-1945

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.

Harry S. Truman | 1945-1953

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.

Dwight D. Eisenhower | 1953-1961

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.

John F. Kennedy | 1961-1963

Contributed by WGBH, Prospects of Mankind is a talk show hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt featuring roundtable discussion of foreign and domestic affairs with leading political, academic, and journalistic experts. It was filmed on location at Brandeis University. Recorded in early 1960s, Eleanor Roosevelt speaks with John F. Kennedy to discuss, What About the Status of Women?

Direct link: https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-057cr5nc5k.

Lyndon B. Johnson | 1963-1969

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.

Richard M. Nixon | 1969-1974

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

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.”

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

Gerald R. Ford | 1974-1977

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.

James Carter | 1977-1981

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.

Ronald Reagan | 1981-1989

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.

George H. W. Bush | 1989-1993

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/.

William J. Clinton | 1993-2001

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.

George W. Bush | 2001-2009

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.

Barack Obama | 2009-2017

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.

Donald J. Trump | 2017-present

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.


About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting   
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 110,000 digital files of television and radio programming contributed by more than 120 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been preserved and made accessible for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 52,000 files are available online at americanarchive.org.  

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