American Presidents

George Washington American Presidents Teacher Guide

Washington and Modern Day America
March 19, 1999 on C-SPAN
Grade Level:
Secondary Level

Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, discusses some of the myths and truths about George Washington. Mr. Brookhiser spoke at a symposium in Alexandria, Virginia, commemorating the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s death.

Before Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
Present students with the following personality traits (discussed by Mr. Brookhiser): Charismatic, Gentleman/Lady, Hero, Politician, Thinker, Skeptic. As a class, define each trait and then ask students: With which personality trait do you most identify? Why? Who identifies with two or more of these traits? Explain.

Divide students into six groups; assign each group one of the personality traits to explore.

Have students identify people, places, myths, and stereotypes associated with their assigned trait. Each group should present a profile of that type of person, i.e. a charismatic person, or a hero. What job would you expect this person to have? What other personality traits? Present a biographical sketch; include a drawing or other artistic rendition. Have student groups share their profiles with one another.

Ask students: Is it possible for one person to have all of these personality traits? What might the biographical details of that person’s life be?

Assess students' prior knowledge of George Washington. Instruct students to present information about President Washington that may relate to each of the six personalities. In what ways may President Washington have been charismatic? a gentleman? a hero? a politician? a thinker? a skeptic?

While Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
Directions: Examine the following "aspects" of George Washington according to the information presented in Mr. Brookhiser’s lecture.

Note especially when Mr. Brookhiser illustrates his points using the following evidence: President Washington’s "own words;" observations of people who knew him; significant events or illustrative anecdotes; influences in his life; biographical facts and personal accomplishments.

1. George Washington: The charismatic individual

2. George Washington: The gentleman

3. George Washington: The hero

4. George Washington: The politician

5. George Washington: The thinker

6. George Washington: The skeptic

After Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
Have students pick one of the aspects of George Washington that Mr. Brookhiser explores and give a personal reaction, answering the question: In what way do you identify with George Washington?

As a class, discuss the following questions:
How did Mr. Brookhiser gather his information about George Washington? List some of the primary sources he used and describe the type of information it offers. What connections does he draw between President Washington’s personality and his presidency, or his other public service? How did President Washington’s personality allow him to succeed as a leader? Did it ever fail him? How does learning about a president’s personality impact your understanding of his presidency?

Additional Activity
Have students find at least two additional primary sources that offer insight about one of President Washington’s personality traits. Write a short essay that draws from the primary sources and builds on Mr. Brookhiser’s statements about President Washington.

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