The 2016 election cycle is unique, today’s pundits constantly remind us. But is this year’s presidential election truly an anomaly in comparison to past elections? Ken Burns, award-winning master filmmaker and historian, will explore this question by using film clips to discuss key U.S. elections, which resemble the current election cycle. The elections discussed will include: Thomas Jefferson’s surprising victory in 1800, Abraham Lincoln’s unexpected mid-Civil War reelection in 1864; Teddy Roosevelt’s frenetic winning campaign of 1904 and crushing defeat in 1912; Franklin Roosevelt’s mid-Depression win in 1936 and wartime victory in 1944; John F. Kennedy’s squeaker in 1960, and Lyndon Johnson’s euphoric victory in 1964. What makes these elections significant for us today? What can they tell us about shifts in American identity and the concerns of voters over the past 150 years? This discussion will compare past elections to this year’s presidential election.
Ken Burns has been making films for more than thirty years. Since the Academy Award nominated BROOKLYN BRIDGE in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. A December 2002 poll conducted byReal Screen Magazine listed THE CIVIL WAR as second only to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North as the “most influential documentary of all time,” and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the “most influential documentary makers” of all time. In March, 2009, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said, “…Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. Ken was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953. He graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1975 and went on to be one of the co-founders of Florentine Films.