American Presidents





Franklin Pierce American Presidents Teacher Guide

Franklin Pierce and the Presidential Family
June 14, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary level


Before Viewing American Presidents
Have students identify some famous members of "first families". What role does the first family play during a presidential administration? During a campaign?

Ask students:

  • Does having a spouse make a person more qualified to be president? Why or why not?
  • Does having children make a person more qualified to be president? Why or why not?

Poll students with the following questions (you may have students make predictions about the results of the poll before asking for a show of hands): Would you like your mom or dad to run for president?

Have students who answered "yes" list what appeals to them about being part of the first family; what their lives on the campaign trail would be like; what life in the White House would be like.

Have students who answered "no" list their reasons and explain their point of view.


While Watching American Presidents
Directions: Tell students they are about to watch a videotape of the C-SPAN's American Presidents program featuring Franklin Pierce to obtain information about his wife and children.

Students should take notes on each of the following individuals with information from the program. When possible, note the source of the information.

1. Jane Appleton Pierce

a. personality:
b. likes and dislikes:
c. relationship with the president:
d. opinions about the president's political career:
e. other information:

2. Bennie Pierce

a. personality:
b. likes and dislikes:
c. relationship with the president:
d. opinions about the president's political career:
e. other information:

After Watching American Presidents
Discuss students' answers to the "While Viewing Activity". What influence did Franklin Pierce's wife have on his career? On his administration? What influence did his children have? Did having children make Franklin Pierce a better president? Why or why not?

What are some sources that can provide historical evidence about the influence first families have on the president? How can historians learn about the true influences that the first family has on a president?

Have students write a eulogy that Franklin Pierce might deliver for one of his immediate family members. The eulogy should offer information about the family member, President Pierce's relationship with him or her, and information about the influence that person had on his life and career.


Additional Activity
Complete a similar activity, focusing on a friend of the president, rather than his family. Watch C-SPAN's American Presidents program on Franklin Pierce for information about influence his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne had on the president's life and career.


Created by America's Cable Companies.