History

Eisenhower TV Campaign

Have students go through the stages of the Eisenhower Answers America campaign at to see how this classic TV political campaign was organized and developed. Have them write paragraphs doing one or more of the following things:

  • explaining what tactics this ad campaign used.
  • comparing and contrasting this ad campaign to a modern one
  • discussing the significance of television to this political campaign
  • explaining whether they think political candidates should be allowed to advertise on TV and, if so, how they think the commercials should be funded and whether there should be a limit on how much a candidate can spend on TV commercials

Options: Have students create their own TV campaign ads using some of the same tactics described in this Eisenhower campaign. Or, have students research and report on Nelson Rockefeller’s 1966 New York Governor’s race, which this PBS site states may have been the first TV spot campaign to be a major factor in an election. You might also have them research and report on the famous Nixon-Kennedy debates of 1960, in which the candidates’ appearances on camera played a role in voter approval.

What if they’d had TV back then?

Discuss the role of television in influencing public opinion. Can TV news reports and programs help shape people’s attitudes toward an important event or issue? How might TV do this differently than print media or radio? Ask students to imagine that TV had existed and had been popular during a historical event that actually occurred before the advent of TV. Have them discuss how that event might have turned out differently if TV had existed.

Historical posters

Discuss the role posters play in influencing people’s attitudes and beliefs, and compare the impact of posters to that of other media, such as TV and newspapers. Have students look at the posters at the Smithsonian’s “Posters American Style” website. Ask them to choose five posters and explain what they show and what messages they impart. Have students design their own posters intended to influence the public’s attitudes toward an issue from a given historical period (e.g. World War II, the era of westward expansion across the United States).

History in the movies

Have students watch all or part of a movie about a historical topic, such as Pocahontas. Have them research the actual story and make lists comparing and contrasting the movie to the real historical account. Have them write reviews of this film to be published in a magazine entitled History Buffs.

Back to Critical Thinking student activities