American Presidents





Chester Arthur American Presidents Teacher Guide

Grover Cleveland Portrayal
August 13, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level


Before Viewing American Presidents
Part 1

Ask students if any of them have ever met a president. Tell students they are about to, so they should prepare, by straightening their desks, sitting up straight and perhaps, humming "Hail to the Chief."

The president they are about to meet is Grover Cleveland--the only U.S. president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms. Students may review some basic biographic information about President Cleveland from C-SPAN's American Presidents web site and other sources.

  • When was he born?
  • Where was he born?
  • What jobs did he hold before the presidency?
  • To which political party did he belong?
  • What years was he elected to the presidency?
Part 2
Show students a portrait of Grover Cleveland, so that they will recognize him when they meet him. Explain to students that they will actually be viewing a portrayal of the president by his grandson, George Cleveland. Pause the videotape on a still that presents a full view of George Cleveland. Ask students if they notice the family resemblance.

Part 3
Prepare students to watch a program featuring Grover Cleveland's grandson, George Cleveland, portraying the president, reminiscing, in his retirement about his life.

Print out the eight excerpts, or quotations, listed in the "While Viewing" activity, and assign one to each student. Each statement is an excerpt from George Cleveland's portrayal. Students should study the words and hypothesize about the context of the statements.

To what is President Cleveland referring? Fill in some of the missing pieces with some logical assumptions (i.e. the "she" in #5 might be President Cleveland's wife.) What is the literal meaning of his words? The figurative meaning? Have students craft and present a dramatic reading of their assigned statement. Evaluate each reading and raise more questions, i.e. What was disagreeable about the job of sheriff? Who was Blaine?


While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Take notes, filling in the details that provide context for each of the following excerpts from the portrayal. To what is the speaker referring?

1. I did not choose public service. It was my destiny.

2. A public office is a public trust.

3. I was a sheriff in Erie, County, New York. It was disagreeable, but I did it.

4. Blaine's stable dogs and gutter rats spread lies against me.

5. She was a breath of fresh air.

6. Congress worked hard to defeat me...

7. My wife predicted we would return.

8. We need more fishermen in government.


After Viewing American Presidents
Ask some basic questions to review students' understanding of the program. What was Grover Cleveland's attitude toward public service? What was his relationship with his wife? What does his relationship with Maria Halpin reveal about his character? What was his attitude toward the presidency?

Review and rank each of the eight excerpts from 1 - 8 (1= most true of this statement; 8= least true of this statement.)


Reveals the most about Grover Cleveland, the person.

Reveals the most about Grover Cleveland, the man.

Is a topic I would like to explore further.

Is a statement a modern president might make.


Additional Activities
1. Have students complete additional research on one of the excerpts. Using the information, students can prepare and deliver a script portraying the president.

2. Have students prepare portrayals of two or more American presidents. Students can prepare role plays based on actual quotations of the presidents, fleshed out with additional research. Present the portrayals as a meeting, a panel discussion, or an interview.

3. In the portrayal, the speaker holds fishermen up as an ideal for other people to aspire to, and fishing as an activity to which there is more than meets the eye. Write an extended essay or create a visual presentation that explores the ways another profession or activity offers valuable life lessons.


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