A rebroadcast of the “Inventing America” trilogy filmed at Hope College will provide an opportunity during the Fourth of July weekend to reflect on the origins and meaning of the holiday with some of those who were there for the first one.
Telling the story of the United States’ three foundational documents, the series will be shown on WGVU on Sunday, July 7, starting at 2 p.m., in addition to having been made available to PBS stations nationwide via the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA). The episodes are also online.
The three episodes explore the origins of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each runs as a panel discussion, hosted by a member of the Hope faculty, with some of the Founding Fathers involved in creating the documents. While imagined and presented as retrospectives, the conversations are based on fact, using the Founders’ actual words.
WGVU in West Michigan will show the episodes, subtitled “Making a Nation,” “Making a Government” and “Liberty for All: The Untold Story of the Bill of Rights,” on July 7 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. Viewers elsewhere should check their local PBS listings to see if and when their local stations will be showing the series.
In addition, the addresses for viewing the episodes online are:
Filmed before live audiences in the college’s DeWitt Center main theatre late in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the episodes premiered each following summer, shown first at the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland, and then on WGVU and subsequently on PBS stations across the country in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday.
“Making a Nation” runs as an interview with three of the Declaration’s signers — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin — and one delegate to the Second Continental Congress, John Dickinson, who refused to sign, revealing the conflict behind the historic document ratified on July 4, 1776. The moderator is Dr. Marc Baer, professor emeritus of history and interim music department chair.
“Making a Government” tells the story behind the Constitutional Convention of 1787, four months that changed the world. In the program, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Gouverneur Morris and George Washington discuss the conflicts and compromises that led to creating the world’s most enduring republic. The moderator is Dr. Fred L. Johnson III, associate professor of history.
“Liberty for All: The Untold Story of the Bill of Rights” features Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and Patrick Henry describing the conflicts and infighting behind the new U.S. Constitution and how that led to the Bill of Rights. Johnson is the moderator.
Created by Holland resident and 1963 Hope graduate Milton Nieuwsma, a two-time Emmy Award winner, “Inventing America” was a co-production of Hope College and WGVU Public Media, the latter of which filmed the episodes. The executive producer was
Darell Schregardus, also a 1963 Hope graduate. A study guide for the series that will be made available to schools this fall is being written by 2012 Hope graduate Rebecca (Fry) Debowski, who majored in history at the college and teaches eighth-grade social studies in the Byron Center Public Schools.
The portrayers were Bill Barker (Thomas Jefferson, episodes 1 and 3), Tom Bengston (Gouverneur Morris, episode 2), Hal Bidlack (Alexander Hamilton, episodes 2 and 3), Sam Goodyear (John Adams, episode 1), John Douglas Hall (James Madison, episodes 2 and 3), John Hamant (Benjamin Franklin, episodes 1 and 2), Richard Schumann (Patrick Henry, episode 3), Rodney TeSlaa (John Dickinson, episode 1) and Gary Zell (George Washington, episode 2).