"Andrew Jackson was a patriot and a traitor. He was the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. He was the most candid of men, and capable of the profoundest dissimulation. He was a democratic autocrat, an urbane savage, an atrocious saint."
- James Parton, Jackson's first biographer, 1859
ANDREW JACKSON: GOOD, EVIL AND THE PRESIDENCY, a documentary that tells the story of one of America's most controversial presidents, airs Wednesday, January 2, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. The program, which features re-enactments, lithographs, letters and the insights of distinguished scholars, transports viewers into the world of America's seventh president, who, in one of the boldest political strokes in history, founded the Democratic Party - yet was viewed by his enemies as an American Napoleon.
ANDREW JACKSON: GOOD, EVIL AND THE PRESIDENCY, narrated by Emmy® Award-winning actor Martin Sheen, tells a story with startling relevance to the modern presidency by bringing to life one of the most remarkable, yet divisive presidents in our history.
The first president with a nickname, "Old Hickory" was born in a log cabin and was an orphan by age 13, but rose to become a major general in the United States Army and the seventh president of the United States. Jackson had strong opinions and equally strong opposition during his eight years as president. That he even made it to the White House surprised and shocked many politicians. His campaign style and tenure as president were turning points in American politics. He was the first president to open the doors of the White House to blue-collar Americans, and he shook up the glossy world of Washington, D.C., with his "common-man" methods and ideals, but also oversaw one of the most controversial events in American history: the forced removal of Indian tribes, including the Cherokees, from their homes.
"Is he a president we should celebrate or a president we should apologize for? It's a question that could certainly spark a fierce debate about our current chief executive," notes Carl Byker, the film's producer, writer and co-director. "But of all the presidents whom Americans have had conflicting feelings about, the one who's been simultaneously adored and reviled with the most intensity is Andrew Jackson."
This documentary reveals that Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War when he was 13 years old and used the skills learned in battle to kill a man over a gambling debt; that Jackson led the American Army to the most surprising victory in its history in the Battle of New Orleans, but also launched an unauthorized invasion of Florida; that Jackson was the first great champion of the common white man and owned more than a hundred black Americans; and that Jackson dramatically expanded the United States and did so by brutally wresting vast regions of the South from Native Americans.
"Despite his pivotal role in American history, few television productions have focused on the life of President Jackson," says Joyce Campbell, KCET vice president of education and station production executive. "This is one of the first films focused on the complexity of Jackson as a leader. The timing on this is perfect and so relevant in January, with so many primaries happening across the United States."
ANDREW JACKSON: GOOD, EVIL AND THE PRESIDENCY will be supported by a wealth of multimedia resources, including a DVD-ROM created especially for educators and a comprehensive Web site that includes in-depth information about the history of Andrew Jackson. The Web site, available in early January 2008 on pbs.org, will chronicle the four stages of Jackson's life, from his early years as an ambitious young officer in the war of 1812 to his hard-fought rise to become the seventh president of the United States. The site also will feature profiles of prominent individuals of the Jacksonian era, maps, image galleries and an interactive timeline.
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