To understand the American past, consider the American presidents. Produced for the award-winning PBS American Experience series, NEH-supported Presidents films offer new perspectives on America's story through the fascinating, often unexpected, lives of its leaders and the times in which they lived. Through a major NEH grant, highlights of many of the films can now be seen online.
Filled with dramatic, meticulously researched storytelling by some of the nation's top documentary makers, the Presidents films put a human face on American social and political history. Through rare footage and visuals, including home movies, newsreels, television highlights, photos, letters, and more, the films take viewers behind the political scenes, but also across the American landscape.
War and peace, good times and bad, political triumphs and stumbles also emerge vividly in interviews with eyewitnesses, political foes and allies, friends and family, and historians and observers. Truman includes the last surviving member of Captain Harry Truman's World War I Army unit; Reagan has insights from Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev as well as Ronald Reagan's staff and family.
The longest serving president (1933–45), Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been called the first "modern" president for his immediate, personal connection with much of the American public, a link amplified through his use of radio. In 1933, his first inaugural address inspired almost half a million letters from Depression-weary Americans. His self-confident style proved just as essential in the demanding years of World War II.