Get Behind the Podium as PBS Online Launches 'Great American Speeches' Web Site

Posted by PBS Publicity on

Featuring More Than 90 History-Making Speeches, and the Behind-the-Scenes Stories That Brought Them To Life

ALEXANDRIA, VA., April 7, 2000 -- PBS Online today debuts one of the most comprehensive sites ever devoted to the speeches that have punctuated American history with "GREAT AMERICAN SPEECHES: 80 YEARS OF POLITICAL ORATORY" (pbs.org/greatspeeches), a companion Web site to the documentary airing on PBS Fridays, April 7-May 5, 2000, 9:00 p.m. (check local listings).

The Great American Speech Web site, however, is more than a companion site for broadcast. The site is a stand-alone and comprehensive resource, appealing to educators and anyone with an interest in American history, oratory, or politics.

From the site, viewers can: 1) find out if they have the speaking skills to be a politician; 2) explore a timeline of 20th century political speech -- featuring texts, photos and background stories on more than 90 speeches from some of the most eloquent and inspiring speakers in modern American history; 3) sample approximately 50 historic audio and video clips; 4) take two interactive American history-trivia challenges; 5) play a "wordsmith" audio-clip quiz; 6) learn classical rhetorical terms and practice using them in an in-depth analysis of a famous speech; and 7) develop lesson plans for the classroom or for home-schooling.

Fans of modern American political history can tour the development of 20th-century American public discourse, browsing, for example, through closing arguments made by famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow, impromptu debates between superpower rivals, audio recordings by Teddy Roosevelt, Marcus Garvey and Lyndon Johnson, and video clips of Robert Kennedy, Douglas MacArthur, and Barry Goldwater, among many others.

What makes one speaker more eloquent than another? What makes one speech moving or persuasive while another, uninspiring and flat? People have been considering these questions for thousands of years. In the site's Critics' Corner, visitors learn the rudiments of classical-speech analysis, as defined by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and then dissect a modern political speech into its basic elements. President Nixon's "Checkers" speech is currently on the "examining table." After the examination is complete, visitors leave with a set of critical tools they can apply to any contemporary public discourse.

For educators, reading the words and ideas of famous people is a powerful way to make issues real. The site gives a glimpse into how some of the most influential Americans thought and expressed themselves, their strategies for persuasion, and their flair for the dramatic. By presenting pairs of opposing ideas from the same era or similar positions from different times, educators can introduce the concept of perspective. In the lesson-plan section, teachers and school librarians can discover a ways others have incorporated these speeches and recordings into their classrooms.

PBS.org, PBS' award-winning site on the World Wide Web, produces high-quality Web programming as it pioneers the convergence of television and the Internet. PBS Online features more than 85,000 pages of content, as well as companion Web sites for more than 400 PBS programs and specials. PBS ONLINE has won the prestigious Webby Award for best TV Web site in 1998 and 1999. In January 2000, Yahoo! put PBS.org at the top of its list of the best Web sites of all time.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 346 public television stations. A trusted community resource, PBS uses the power of noncommercial television, the Internet and other media to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households, PBS serves nearly 100 million people each week. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org.


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