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Smithsonian Associates

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Every president is the central player in the drama called America, and it’s increasingly crucial for presidents to generate a positive image in popular culture. But the respect and even reverence that once surrounded the presidency have seriously eroded, replaced by skepticism, cynicism, and often ridicule, making governing all the more difficult.

Veteran White House correspondent, historian, and author Ken Walsh presents an overview of how the presidency and presidents, both real and fictional, are portrayed in the movies, news media, social media, and on television entertainment programs such as “Saturday Night Live,” late-night talk shows, and “The West Wing.”

Walsh looks at how the presidents who are portrayed the most positively in popular culture—who participate in and understand it—sometimes can bond strongly with the public and are the most effective leaders. Of course, some fail, and he also turns his eye to them. Among the presidents in the pop culture spotlight are Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden.

Activity Type:

Virtual

Level:

intermediate

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