“America: A Call to Greatness, is about the history of our nation and it is about people. What happens in our history makes it about our children.”
-Rita Moreno comments on America: A Call to Greatness
Considerable research was conducted by the respected special effects makeup and costuming team of Philip and Melissa Nichols. Using intricately developed prosthetics based upon sculpts and even death masks, prominent American heroes from America’s past were brought to life. Correct period costuming was added and prominent highly experienced actors were cast for the various roles. Director, Warren Chaney and his film crew visited important historical location sites from Valley Forge in mid-winter to the rolling prairies of Dakotas in the summer in order that the actors might be placed in the correct environment for their portrayals. As a result, George Washington speaks from Valley Forge, Abe Lincoln from Gettysburg and Mark Twain on the Mississippi River.
In Order of Appearance
GEORGE WASHINGTON: Portrayed by Blue Deckert
George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America. For his central role in the formation of the United States, he is referred to as the father of his country.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: Portrayed by Rutherford Cravens
Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat. As a scientist, Franklin was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He formed both the first public lending library in America and first fire department in Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution, Franklin served as a French diplomat successfully securing a French alliance that helped make the United States Independence possible.
JOHN ADAMS: Portrayed by James Black
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American politician and the second President of the United States (1797–1801), after being the first Vice President (1789–1797) for two terms. He is regarded as one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution as a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. There, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to adopt the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. As a representative of Congress in Europe, Adams became a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and was largely responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam.
THOMAS JEFFERSON: Portrayed by Gabriel Folse
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. Major events during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806). Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793), and second Vice President (1797–1801).
CALVIN COOLIDGE: Portrayed by Charles Charpiot
John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.(July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929). A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small-government conservative. He restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable popularity.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Portrayed by Raymond Baker
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States, Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the secessionist Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As the Civil War drew to a close, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated; it would be another month before the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces and Jefferson Davis' capture.
MARK TWAIN: Portrayed by Nick Hagler
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is extensively quoted. During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty. He enjoyed immense public popularity. His keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature.”
WILL ROGERS: Portrayed by David Sanders
William "Will" Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was a Cherokee-American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor. He was the father of U.S. Representative and WWII veteran Will Rogers, Jr. Known as Oklahoma's favorite son, Rogers was born to a prominent Indian Territory family. He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people, and was the top-paid movie star in Hollywood at the time. He died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed near Barrow, Alaska Territory.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Portrayed by Daniel Kamin
Theodore D. Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was the youngest President of the United States. He is most remembered for his energy, his range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his "cowboy" image. Roosevelt was a leader of the Republican Party and founder of the short-lived Bull Moose Party. Before becoming the 26th President (1901–1909), he held offices at the municipal, state, and federal level of government. Roosevelt's achievements as a naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier are as much a part of his fame as any office he held as a politician.
HARRY S. TRUMAN: Portrayed by Charles Rimmel
Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953). As the 34th vice president, he succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died less than three months after he began his fourth term. Truman's presidency was eventful in foreign affairs. He presided over the end of World War II, made a decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan, helped in the founding of the United Nations, and development of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. The Truman Doctrine was developed to contain communism and signaled the beginning of the Cold War and creation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), The Korean War began under his watch. Today, many historians consider Truman one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
LAURA WHITFIELD: Portrayed by Leonora Scelfo
Fleeing religious persecution and the English Civil War, Laura Whitfield(1828-1845) and her family arrived in the colonies in the late 1640s. Little of known of Laura Whitfield other than a letter sent to her friend in England. Though the teenager failed to survive in the new land, her letter did. Her expression of faith was not unlike that of many other immigrants and is best summed up in an official statement of the New England Confederation.
ANDREW JACKSON: Portrayed by John Meadows
Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. He dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s, where his political ambition combined with widening political participation shaped the modern Democratic Party. His legacy is seen as a protector of popular democracy and individual liberty. Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed “Old Hickory”. Jackson was the first president primarily associated with the American frontier. His portrait appears on the United States twenty-dollar bill.
PATRICK HENRY: Portrayed by David Rankin
Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is best known for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential advocates of the American Revolution and republicanism. Henry was especially ferocious in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON: Portrayed by Kyle Scott Jackson
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, orator, author and the dominant leader of the nation's African-American community from the 1890s to his death. Born to slavery and freed by the Civil War in 1865, he led the new Tuskegee Institute, then a teachers' college for blacks. His famous "Atlanta Exposition" speech of 1895 appealed to middle class whites across the South, asking them to give blacks a chance to work and develop separately. To many politicians and the public in general, he was seen as a popular spokesman for African-American citizens representing the last generation of black leaders born into slavery. In his public role, Washington believed he could achieve more by operating through the social structure of the time and so contributed secretly but substantially to legal challenges of segregation and disfranchisement of blacks.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: Portrayed by Robert Marich
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, became the only U.S. President elected to four terms of office. He led the nation during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war. Often referred to by his initials, FDR, Roosevelt won his first of four presidential elections in 1932, while the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression. His combination of optimism and economic activism is often credited with keeping the country's economic crisis from devolving into a political crisis. He led the United States through most of World War II, and died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage, shortly before the war ended. Roosevelt is consistently rated by historians as one of the greatest of U.S. Presidents. His political impact resonated on the world stage long after his death.
CLARA BARTON: Portrayed by Jean Pennington
Clara Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She has been described as having a "strong and independent spirit" and is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross. She met Susan B. Anthony and began a long association with the suffrage movement. She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for black civil rights, or an abolitionist.
SUSAN B ANTHONY: Portrayed by Jean Pennington
Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States. She traveled the United States and Europe for 45 years giving 75 to 100 speeches annually on women's rights. In the era prior to the American Civil War, Anthony took a prominent role in the New York anti-slavery and temperance movements. She died 14 years before passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, but has since been honored as the first American woman on circulating U.S. coinage with her appearance on the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
JAMES MADISON: Portrayed by Luis Lemus, III
James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. Considered to be the Father of the Constitution, Madison was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first President to have served in the United States Congress, Madison was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights). As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.
WOODROW WILSON: Portrayed by Steve Word
Thomas Woodrow Wilson, (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States. He was a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era and served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. To date he is the only President to hold a doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree and the only President to serve in a political office in New Jersey before election to the Presidency.
CHIEF JOHN BIG TREE: Portrayed by Daniel Silverheels
John Big Tree (1812 – 1885) was an outspoken American Indian and Chief of a Poncas tribe from middle Nebraska. The area inhabited by his tribe had experienced increased tension between the Indian and German settlers from about 1841 until the greater part of the area was annexed by the United States in 1867. Native Americans usually made decisions about war and peace at the local level, though they sometimes fought as part of formal alliances. John Big Tree rejected calls of the more famous Indian leaders of his time and refused to take his tribe into the conflicts of the period. He joined with Chief Standing Bear who successfully argued in U.S. District Court in 1879 that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus. Big Tree died in Oklahoma of natural causes in November of 1885.
BENJAMIN DISRAELI: Portrayed by E.P. Ryan
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS, (21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881) was a British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, conservative statesman and literary figure. Disraeli served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister. A teenage convert to Anglicanism, Disraeli was nonetheless the country's first and thus far only Prime Minister of Jewish heritage. He played an instrumental role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party after the Corn Laws schism of 1846.
ABAGAIL ADAMS: Portrayed by Suzanne Savoy
Abigail Adams (November 11, 1744 – October 28, 1818) was the wife of the second President of the United States, John Adams, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth. She was the first Second Lady of the United States and the second First Lady, although the terms were not coined until after her death. She is remembered for the many letters she wrote to her husband while he stayed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Continental Congresses. John Adams frequently sought the advice of his wife on many matters, and their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on government and politics. The letters are invaluable eyewitness accounts of the Revolutionary War home front as well as excellent sources of political commentary. She was an advocate of married women's property rights and more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education. In particular, Adams like her husband believed that slavery was not only evil, but also a threat to the American democratic experiment.
REVEREND JOHN WITHERSPOON: Portrayed by Morgan Redmond
John Witherspoon (February 15, 1723 – November 15, 1794) was a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Jersey. He was both the only active clergyman and college president to sign the Declaration. Witherspoon has been viewed as being "a very able college president” of Princeton University. The Ideals that he preached from the pulpit and ideas that he taught in the classroom lived on after his death. From among his students came 37 judges, three of whom made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 Cabinet officers, 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 U.S. senators, and 49 United States congressmen. The limited-government philosophy of most of these men was due in large measure to Witherspoon's influence.
GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR: Portrayed by James Huston
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (January 26, 1880 – April 5, 1964) was an American general, United Nations general, and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and later played a prominent role in the Pacific theater of World War II. General MacArthur was a highly decorated US soldier of the war, receiving the Medal of Honor for his early service in the Philippines and on the Bataan Peninsula. He was designated to command the proposed invasion of Japan in November 1945. When that was no longer necessary, he officially accepted the nation's surrender on September 2, 1945. MacArthur fought in three major wars (World War I, World War II, Korean War) and was one of only five men ever to rise to the rank of a five star General.