Binders, Bigbird, and great balls of fire. Both our current President and his opponent are all over the television and radio this year. And it’s not entirely for good reasons, either. How many people out there remember the debates between other presidential candidates? For that matter, how many people out there can name even half of the men who have led this great nation? Thanks to PBS, both general viewers and students alike will be reminded of nearly a dozen of those men. From Roosevelt to Truman to Reagan all the way up to Bill Clinton, this seventeen disc set is an excellent watch for anyone who has any interest in politics and political science both inside and outside the classroom.
There are those who have made certain allegations about PBS. But in watching this series, perhaps those same people will change their tune in seeing how wrong they are. It is a fully unbiased look at the lives of some of our nation’s most well known and respected leaders. It pulls no punches, showing each President in his high times and low. For instance, the program focusing on Clinton leaves nothing out, including the scandal centered on former intern Monica Lewinsky. Perhaps one of the most interesting facts from the newly added piece on Clinton was that he apparently originally did not want to get involved in the Serbian conflict in the late 1990s. From what the feature notes, he originally wanted to leave that conflict to NATO forces. But amid growing pressure from the national and international community, he finally gave in and took the lead in the air war that ended things there. His ongoing conflict with then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was just as interesting. Any movie buff will see some similarities to the Frank Capra helmed 1939 movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the pair’s ongoing conflict.
Another of the more interesting segments included in this updated re-issue focused on President Harry Truman. Anyone who has any interest or knowledge of Presidential history will find his history to be unlike any of the other Presidents featured in the set. Truman, as documented in the set, came from the most humble of roots. He grew up in a less than well-to-do family in Missouri. He was unlike nearly every President before and since. He ended up marrying his wife Bessie after having first met her when he was only five years old. Through all the years that he could have strayed, his heart never did. Even when he spent part of his young adult life in Kansas City, he never strayed a single bit. At that time, as the feature notes, Kansas City was a rather seedy area. So seeing that he didn’t break from his upbringing even then is incredible. Even more interesting is that even after having married Bessie, he moved into her mother’s home with her and dealt with her mother for many years without even the slightest problem from him. There is so much more that audiences will learn about Truman here as he gets two of the discs in the total seventeen discs included in the set, as does Clinton.
The features on Clinton and Truman are just a couple examples of what viewers can expect in this newly re-issued set. Also included are: Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, LBJ, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. The material on these presidents is more than enough to last an entire semester for a college level political science class and an entire academic year in a public high school.
The Presidents is available now. It can be ordered online at PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org.
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