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tv   The White House in Film TV  CSPAN  April 6, 2021 2:13pm-2:59pm EDT

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weekend on c-span3. filmmakers and former white house officials describe their work on productions depicting the white house and the presidency. the discussion hosted by the white house historical association was recorded at the john f. kennedy center for the performing arts in washington d.c. [ applause ] >> good evening, i hope you've been enjoying tonight's program. it's been fascinating, and there's more to come. a year ago i was honored when fred ryan, the chair of our board, asked me to chair the white house historical association's board committee for this important four-day summit. i want to thank the members of our committee martha kumar, mike mccurry, anne stock, and michael for their yearlong commitment and their enumerable contributions to the planning of this summit. with the terrific staff of the white house historical association and the president's
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vision and leadership, we've convened more than 100 presidential sites as well as leading experts in the wide array of fields and interests that the presidential site representatives told us that they wanted to hear from. i want to thank our good friend david reubenstein for moderating a fascinating conversation with the descendants about their personal first-hand experiences of living in the white house or sharing family stories that have been passed down to them through the ages. that is what it is really like to be in the white house. in our next panel, we will shift gears to hollywood. and as deedee myers said in her message, we'll examine how both the big and small screen portray the white house and the people who live there and work there. from comedies to dramas, there is no shortage of interest and
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fascination in washington. there are more shows and more characters and roles that are portrayed and examined, and certainly a large volume of material to draw from. one person who knew the power and reach of television was first lady jackie kennedy. when she led a tour of the white house in a landmark television broadcast on valentine's day 1962, 80 million people watched and listened as she walked from room to room. her tv appearance was also syndicated in 50 countries. she not only shined a light on her leadership in historic preservation at the white house, but as one administration critic wrote at the time, it helped bridge the gulf normally separating the white house and
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the individual citizen. that's the power of television and the movies. the connection they can make to telling our nation's story is impactful. but with that impact comes responsibility. some get it right, and some don't. and our next panel, you will hear from actors, producers, writers on the productions behind the scenes. and you'll hear from experienced washingtonians who are technical consultants and have shared their expertise based on years in this town and their own roles in the white house. i have the good fortune to work as a consultant for hbo's veap. it is definitely one of the more fun things i get to do. i can't recall quite the same antics or the language from when i was working in the white house, as you see on shows like veap. but i can say this. the team spends a lot of time getting it right. so let's dive into our second
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panel. please first welcome back to the oval office david reuben stein to moderate our panel. [ applause ] aiden canto, accomplished actor and known to all of us as white house deputy chief of staff and later chief of staff aaron shore in "designated survivor." [ applause ] tammy hadad, president and ceo hadad media. [ applause ] i also get to work with her on veap where she's our lead consultant. mack, chairman of mclarty associates, consultant for designated survivor, white house down, and many other
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washington-oriented films and television productions. he also served of course as former chief of staff to president bill clinton. capricia marshall, consultant for "house of cards." [ applause ] she also served as white house social secretary to president and mrs. clinton and state department chief of protocol for president obama. kirk, documentarian, producer, and executive. [ applause ] and james vanderbilt, writer, director, producer, and screenwriter, and producer of white house down. [ applause ] mr. rubenstein, the stage is yours. >> you've been chief of staff for the white house. so when you see all these movies
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or tv shows that portray the chief of staff of the white house, do they make him handsome enough, do you think? [ laughter ] >> some are too hall and too handsome. >> but when you look at them on tv, when you watch various shows, do you think that they are reasonably accurate in the way they portray what goes on in the white house? or is it too dramatic? >> david, i think largely it does capture the white house, the ups and downs, the challenges, the fast pace. it obviously is dramatized. i always wish we had a script like "west wing" and "designated survivor." that would have helped. >> you've served as social secretary and as head of protocol. and, as you heard earlier, "house of cards" adviser. when they're doing "house of cards" or when they were doing it, how much input do you have, and why are they so concerned about accuracy? who cares if it's really that accurate? will it make a difference? >> well, actually, david, you
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and mack and i, we were all witnesses to history and ceremonies and everyday life that occurred. and when i was asked to advise, i thought, gosh, i need to really get this right. i was a little confused during "west wing" when people were racing back and forth, and i was wondering where are they going, why are they walking so fast? and i was asked on house of cards to improvise on state arrival, because i was chief of protocol, i took it very seriously. i took it seriously because i think that these movies and shows are successful and interesting because people want that peek behind the curtain. they're really intrigued. so we should let them know exactly what's happening. how does this occur, why does it occur? but on this particular scene, i kind of took it a little bit too far, and i became the director
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and i kept saying, cut, you got it wrong, you need to go back and do it again, do it again. and one of the actors, who shall remain nameless, said to me, does it really make a difference? and i said, well, if it doesn't really make a difference, then why am i here? that was my last day on set with that particular actor. [ laughter ] >> so, by the way, as chief of protocol, your job is to make sure nothing bad happens, no embarrassments, nothing. give us an example of an embarrassment that occurred. >> oh, that's an easy one. all you have to do is google capricia marshall fall. at the north portico steps, i was leading president and mrs. obama out in a very elegant gown, and my skinny heel got stuck in a divet on the marble.
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and i went down with my mother watching live on c-span from cleveland, ohio. it was pretty embarrassing. president obama thought it was quite funny because at the next state visit as we were walking out, ask this is for the president of korea, he whispered in my ear, will she stay up or will she go down? [ laughter ] >> all right. so, your series on john adams. he was the first president to live in what is now the white house. how can you possibly know what it looked like in those days? >> well, we had the benefit of his great book. you were talking about authenticity and how important it is. we answer to a higher authority, meaning david. he was very involved with the entire production from development of the scripts and through production. so we had a pretty good idea.
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when you read david's book, you feel like you're at the elbow of both abigail and john adams. >> they only lived there for a few months, is that right? >> right. >> it is said that abigail adams used to, i guess, her bosch out in the east room. is there any truth to that? >> from what david told us, yes. we didn't want to do a costume drama. we wanted to it to seem like this was gritty and difficult. by that point, it's early 19th century. and so what was life really like at that time? david always said to us, you know, none of this was foreordained. it wasn't foreordained that we would declare independence, et cetera so we always kept that in mind. >> where did you shoot that? >> we shot it primarily in virginia not too far down in richmond. some of it in hungary but
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primarily in richmond. >> and when you build the sets, what happens to the sets afterwards? do you sell them off? >> the state of virginia still uses them. i think they used them for lincoln. i will say in terms of the set, i remember the first day we took david there right before we started production, and he was with his wife rosalie. he got a little emotional when the first set we showed him and was the adams' family farm. and he got emotional because it was so, as he his research had shown. >> i know it's very important to have it accurate. and when steven spielberg was doing lincoln, they did it at the state capitol and tried to make it look like what the capitol would've looked like in washington when they were talking about the thirteenth amendment. they made one mistake.
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they left a bust of woodrow wilson up. [ laughter ] and he hadn't been alive then. but otherwise it was pretty accurate. when you're an actor, you talk to people, like you play the national security adviser, chief of staff. >> that's right. >> have you talked to somebody like mack or other people that played those roles? >> mack was very kind, and he lent me, it was about an hour of his time. it was a pretty significant conversation. i was hoping not to be obnoxious. i just had all these questions. it's a pretty big task to play a role like this in. talking about being accurate and getting it right, i just felt, number one, i felt very excited about it. it's a fascinating world. it's basically carving out our times. we're building future -- the history+++i make
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sure that comedy comes from the fact that it's exactly factual. so, we actually some of the people here on this stage and some people out there have passed along tips and things that have happened. my favorite story, one day i got a call from an obama person who said you've got to do this, it's another veep moment, that's a big thing that happens in white houses, it's a veep moment, and that's why i give out my phone number. and the white house sent out a memo that said, the emails are down. that's a classic veep moment. no one can get the email. that's sort of a veep thing. but what we try to do and what hbo always does, and they have the history of it with recount, game change, confirmation, all the way was originally a broadway play.
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but we have to have it precise. so we introduce them to people and let them hear the language. it's really the language that tells you. >> so do you read the scripts in advance and tell them what you think? or do you sit when they're actually shooting the scenes? >> well, for veep, we look at the scripts and we just make sure that -- you know, the hard thing is we don't know anything about comedy in washington, right? and then every so often you think, oh, it might be funnier if this -- and you're like stay in your own lane, you don't really know, you're a political producer. but it does make it funnier when it's exact. like we tell them language, like what's the clutch, what's grass talks, high talks, grassroots, task force, all the language that we use every day. when we sit with the writers and bring them to washington and they see people talk, you know, not famous for washington
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people, people that have worked in capitol hill forever in the back room of the white house, and they're mesmerized by the language. they just want to capture it, and then at the do, and then they make it funnier than you can ever believe. >> how did you get into this business of being adviser? how does one prepare to be an adviser in this kind of way? >> i'm a longtime political producer. i was political director of msnbs, ran "larry king live." and you have to know people that are willing to tell you everything. we've got one more season of veep coming up. >> julia louis dreyfus is the mark twain award winner. [ applause ] >> they just started, veep just started shooting last week. it's going to come out in april. and it's so great that you're doing that, david. thank you. >> well, it's going to be a great show. mack, when you're chief of staff
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of the white house, do you say, how is this going to look on tv if this is ever portrayed? you never worry about that, do you, how it's going to look on tv, if somebody ever writes this. >> well, that occurs to us, david, for sure. there's no question that the photo op of the day, the message of the day is the medium. you want to get your message out there, your point of view. so perception is important. but you've got to have the right decisions and the substance behind it, too. >> when the president of the united states is going to make a statement, he can do it in press room. he can do it in the oval office. he can do it, i guess, in the residence. and they try to vary it? >> sometimes you can just do it spontaneously. that's what you really worry about. [ laughter ] >> and, capricia, when you are at the state department as protocol chief, you have events at the very well known nonwhite house part, but it's the
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benjamin franklin room and so forth. just describe briefly what those rooms are about and sometimes you see those on tv as well. >> oh, well, they are very historic. the collection, actually if you get an opportunity, people should go to the state department when they reopen at the end of august, beginning of september, and visit. the collection that is in those rooms is an extraordinary gathering of our american story. and i think the collection is valued now at $120 million. they are originals. and i when i was chief of protocol, really loved taking our foreign visitors through those rooms because each piece, each painting, each piece of furniture, the extraordinary items that you had donated, the constitution, it was amazing, the table which those extraordinary documents were
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drafted, i would love to tell our visiting delegations all about this because it tells the history of who we are. and i would say, and this is 200 years old to the chinese. and they would laugh. [ laughter ] and i said, oh, now it may not be as old as yours, but the story and what it means to us is as rich if not more. >> so when you're the white house social secretary, one of your jobs is to figure out who comes to the state dinners, which nobody really wants to go to, of course, but you have to beg people to go, i guess. sometimes people really want to go and you don't have to beg them. how many calls did you get from prominent americans saying i really need to be there or the president told me i would be invited. do you ever get those calls? >> i see anne stock here in the audience as well. and she's a former social secretary. and i would say we would get hundreds of those calls, anne, of, oh, the president just
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invited me, i'm supposed to be there. there is a great story that bess abel who was press secretary for president johnson told all of us that she once received a telephone call that a good friend of the presidents, that his wife was dying of cancer, and that if she is not invited, it will be her last moment. well, she went to mrs. johnson, she told her the story, and mrs. johnson was, like, i don't know anything about this, but certainly we should. and so they did. she said she just saw her shopping, she was just there recently grocery shopping, so clearly she overcame that fatal cancer. >> well, the invitation must've given her good health, right? sometimes you're producing things that are not from the john adams era. >> correct. >> and you produce on cnn, the '60s, the '70s. where do you get all that film footage? is it hard to get that? >> no.
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it's actually -- it's everywhere because we really rely on the archives from the network cbs, nbc, abc, the miller center which is at the university of virginia has been very helpful with a lot of the audio recordings. i know mrs. rob talked earlier about having phone calls from her father to various figures. well, we use those extensively, both from president johnson. we use some -- president kennedy actually didn't record his phone calls but recorded himself on a dictaphone. and the miller center has those. and there's an authenticity when you're looking at the actual footage. i think that's one of the things we really hear about is that people feel like they're really watching television at the time. we've done the '60s through the '70s. >> so which one is the most highly rated? the baby boomers?
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>> all of the shows have been thankfully have done really well in the ratings. but they seem to go up every year because it's the living memory of more and more people as we get closer to contemporary times. >> and you have a co-producer? >> you mean tom hanks? [ laughter ] >> gary gessman and tom hanks are the executive producers. >> does he look at the film with you? >> he doesn't come into the edit bay very often, but yes, of course. tom and gary set a pretty high bar from the start of the company playtone, which they started 20 years ago now. and they knew that they wanted to do history, and they knew they were going to set a pretty high bar, obviously tom being who he is, people would expect, one time he was referred to by "time" magazine as american's historian on the cover. that's a high bar that we're constantly aware that we have to make. >> the '60s, the '70s, the '80s,
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the '90s. >> and the 2000s. >> which presidential speech were the most emotional? i just have one minute to watch a presidential clip, which one is the most emotional where you think is the most memorable? >> in terms of a speech i would say in deference to mrs. rob, lbj's speech at the end of his speech right after selma. and he sad "and we shall overcome." i was privileged to interview john lewis here in washington. and we talked about that moment because he was with dr. king in alabama when they watched that, and they had no idea that the president was going to say that. so if i was to boil it down to one, one-minute segment, i would say that. >> so before i got into private equity i thought i should be an actor, and i thought it was an easy thing to do, but there were no takers. so i had to do something else,
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go to law school and business. but being an actor, is that a profession that you trained for? did you go to acting school? how do you get into that? i didn't get into the right school, but how did you get into that profession? being tall and handsome helps, i assume. >> i wish it was a bit more exciting. before i was an actor, first of all, i had no idea that this was possible. my hometown or towns, south texas, dell rio, texas, and acuna, mexico, both small towns. >> a couple hundred people? >> something like that. >> so did you want to go to hollywood and be famous? >> that was absolutely not in my radar. >> so how did you get into this? in case i want to reinvent my career again? [ laughter ] >> i was a musician, i was a
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singer/songwriter, and i progressed in music to a certain point. and life was very, very hard. and at that point for some reason i was living in mexico -- i had lived in l.a. for a while, and then i decided to go to mexico city. i don't remember how or why. there was this music project that we got going, and i was going to do my first album as a singer. all of a sudden the producers that were leading this project, they got fired from their companies, and i never heard from them again. and i had to fend for myself. i was down there, okay, so what do i do? there was commercials. i could find a job at starbucks down there, but it doesn't pay what starbucks pays in the states. it was just not going to work. and i had been raised in the states so it didn't make any sense in my head. i started doing commercials. and then the casting houses for commercials did films as well. so i wanted to stop doing
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commercials because i really enjoyed finding, i guess, a bit more complex characters. and i was fortunate enough to get good opportunities, stars aligned with the right projects and right characters. and i did a very obscure tv show that was actually censored because it was portraying a lot of the secrets between government and, you know, the world of drugs down in mexico. it was censored. so my only job, i couldn't go out there so i didn't have a calling card. but, anyway, got to a certain point. i decided to come back to l.a. and ever since, it's just a fascinating world. >> the job are handed out on merit? or is it sometimes who you know? >> no, it depends on the project. the story, the tone of the piece
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says a lot as well. there are some amazing actors who do a certain kind of movie that i'm not particularly fond of but i like to watch their work because that's something i could never do. >> so when you're playing the chief of staff or the nsa adviser, do you memorize whole pages at a time? or do you just do a couple words, and then they stop it and you do another couple words? >> no, i don't. i couldn't do that. what i do is, so i find keywords. if there is a page of dialogue, it doesn't matter. it's going to be in here at the end, i know. so i don't get nervous about it. i know what's going on. i understand the situation very, very well. so then i find the keywords. and i guess subconsciously everything connects with the keywords and the situation, and all of a sudden after reading it a few times and reacting to my fellow actors on set, it just happens. >> okay. so you've given up your singing career, you're full-time acting
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now, right? >> somewhat. it's still there but it's not a priority at all at the moment. >> you don't want to sing anything now, right? [ laughter ] [ applause ] a favorite song you want to sing? no, okay. any white house related songs? do you know "hail to the chief"? >> maybe we could do it together. [ laughter ] >> i am the only person in this room who is completely tone-deaf so you don't want to hear me sing. tammy, how did you come to washington? where did you come from, and how did you get interested in politics and the media? >> i was an intern in college, instead of going to class, i could go and intern at a tv station. kdk in pittsburgh. and i got hired to work on a talk show, and immediately got interested in politics. i should thank you, the jimmy
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carter white house had unbelievable radio outreach, and every day the white house would call and give us a guest, and then larry king's radio show, you guys remember larry king, his radio show was in washington, they needed a producer, and someone from the white house recommended me. so i moved to washington to do that. and i actually remember, we were in crystal city, which was brand new one. and i kept trying to get ted turner, he had just launched cnn. it was so amazing, cnn. and i finally booked him. i thought he was the greatest producer in north america. he says to larry king, wouldn't you like to come and work here? so then we ended up going to cnn. but it's always about politics. and when you're here, you're here in washington. everyone has some sort of piece of it. but to be able to decide what's important to pick the polls and all that, that's pretty exciting. >> so when you're doing the larry king show, what was the most embarrassing moment? did somebody not show up or somebody was drunk?
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>> okay. the most embarrassing moment was when raquel welch -- >> who is she? [ laughter ] i remember her. >> she was at a desk, and she was intoxicating, and i went over and i said, hey, we're going on the air. and she goes, well, i'm not ready. and i said, well, it's "larry king live," and the music is playing. and she said, you know, i'm not ready. and i said, well, you have to come. and i pulled her out. she gets on the set. now, ladies and gentlemen, it's "larry king live." and tonight raquel welch. and she burped. and larry said, oh, are you okay? and she said, it's just a burp, larry. and, by the way, only if you look like raquel welch, can you burp on national television. yeah, that's how it was. >> okay. >> is that embarrassing enough?
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but the great moment, back to politics for a minute, was -- mack and i were talking about it we had ross perot on larry king live when the president george herbert walker bush went to congress on vote on going to war, and robert mosbaucher was yelling at ross perot. and i thought, oh, my goodness, this guy has more power than we thought. i just thought he rescued his staff from iran. and he announced he was running for president. so it happens on cable. >> what was with those suspenders? >> i can explain that to you, too. and you should know that because you're a producer now at the kennedy center. it's the appearance of sitting straight up and down. see? >> i'll get myself a pair of suspenders. what are you writing or producing next? >> i have a movie coming out called "house with a clock in its walls."
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it's jack black and cate blanchett. it comes out september 21st. all of you go see it six or seven times. >> without telling us the ending, what's the essence of the plot? >> it is about a young boy in the 1950s who loses his parents and he goes to live with his uncle. and he discovers his uncle is actually a warlock. and his uncles has no rules, you can stay up as late as you want, you can eat cookies. and he sort of gets indoctrinated into this family of witches and wizards. and of course there is a bad guy, and complications ensue. >> okay. well, it sounds like something we all want to go see. >> six or seven times. >> so, we have a little time left. let me just ask -- do you have a question? >> no. actually, i wanted to do an addendum to what i had said earlier, or add something. i just wanted to thank you,
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david. [ applause ] for your contributions -- >> thank you. >> the contributions that you made and your generosity and devotion to our american history. you can see it all over the united states. before the show, i mean, everywhere, i was telling them a little bit of how we revere you because of our devotion to our american history. >> thank you very much. >> you should ask him what embarrassing moment did he have at the white house? let's hear about david's white house. [ applause ] come on. >> there are a lot of embarrassing moments when i was at the white house, i suspect. but one of them i aelz remember was this. my boss was stewart, the president's policy adviser. i was the deputy. in those days stewart would go home to dinner, he had young kids, he went home for dinner. so i was staying there, i ate at the vending machine so i didn't go home i just ate there.
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one time stewart was away, and he was coming back and the president of the united states had a phone that he could just pick up and it would ring directly in stewart's office. but it also would flash in my office so well. one time, the president called and stewart wasn't there, so i figured, geez, i'll pick it up myself. so i'm talking to the president and he thinks for about 30 seconds it's stewart he's talking to and finally, i say, it's david. he said it doesn't make a difference i can talk to you about what i want to talk to you about. i'm giving him my advice, stewart is coming back, going past my office and he calls the white house operator and says can you get me the president? and she says he's talking to david rubenstein right now. stewart came around and said i'm the president's top adviser. what are you doing talking to him? i recovered and didn't get fired from that. there were other embarrassing moments. the other embarrassing moment
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during the campaign, the last campaign in 1980, we were called back in the middle of the night to go back to the white house because of the hostage negotiations were going on and some break had come through. so they apparently knocked on everybody's door in the hotel and said we're leaving at 3:00 a.m. get dressed. get out of here. they claim that they knocked on my door, i said okay, but i didn't remember it. so i got up about 7:00 a.m. i get dressed, walk out and every door is open. there's not one single person left and i wonder what happened? is this a movie or something where everybody has disappeared? finally i called the white house and said what happened? they said david, you didn't show up for the plane. we left without you. too bad, you come back commercial. when you're traveling with the president of the united states, you need to make sure you're there all the time. anyway, there are other embarrassing moments but i don't think people want to hear about my embarrassing moments. i would like to thank all of you for giving your time and energies here tonight, and i hope people have felt they've
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learned a little bit more about the white house and also television and things relating to it. and thank you for what you've done for our country and service. thank you for the great documentaries you've done, great acting and the voice lessons you're going to give me after this. we look forward to your movie coming out. thank you all for coming. i hope you had an enjoyable time. i'm with the white house historical association. thank you for sticking with us through the hottest show in town in tonight. we're going to do some photographs. our presidential descendents, if you can queue up here for a
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photograph with you and we'll have you all sign the desk drawer of the resolute desk. for those of you who have attended our summit we have ten restaurant and bar specials throughout this week through friday, special drinks, special meals, special discounts. can you see them on our website the willard hotel, if you came on a bus, the buses will be pick ing you up where they dropped you off. to everyone else, go home, cool off. good night.
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week nights this month we're featuring programs as a preview of what's available every weekend. tonight we look at pandemics & disease. in 1918, a flu virus infected one-third of the world's population. nancy briscoe from the university of pugett sound talks
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about the correlations between that earlier pandemic and today's global crisis. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. library of congress is an academy-award-winning including recordings of folk musicians. highlighting the benefit to the public and scholars worldwide. part of the series titled "the american scene," film was created by the u.s. office of war information overseas branch operating in europe and the pacific to support the war effort through print, radio and film productions. ♪♪


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