America's National Treasures (2010) - full transcript

From the desk on which Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to Dorothy's ruby slippers, the National Museum of American History houses many of America's greatest treasures and icons. Learn the stories of how they came to be a part of the museum's collection, and meet the people who have restored some of these treasures. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
What is a true American treasure?

Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet.

Abraham Lincoln's hat.

Tito Puente's drums.

George Washington's coat.

A gown that Jackie Kennedy wore.

Babe Ruth's signed baseball.

The Muhammad Ali gloves.

R2D2 and CP3O.

These objects seem
to have little in common.

But they all represent the rich

diversity of U.S. history:

Dramatic events...
Life-changing discoveries...

Remarkable inventions... Legendary people.

Curators at the Smithsonian's

national museum of American
history have taken on a

from the museum's three million

artifacts, chose a group of

objects that most define
the American experience.

It's really a concentrated,

powerful experience to be in the

presence of all of these
great things at once.

For the first time ever,
these national treasures

can be seen in one place,
and share one amazing story.

It really is this wonderful
snapshot of who we are, of

American identity, of what the nation is.

It's 200 years of history
as you've never seen it

before through America's treasures.

Washington, D.C., home to
monuments honoring the great

events, people and ideals that

have shaped America's history.

But our history is more than
stories cast in marble and


At the Smithsonian's national

museum of American history, the

American experience comes to life.

The museum of American
history has a unique mission.

This is the only museum in the

world that has the mission of

telling the whole story
of American history.

Over the decades, the museum has amassed a

collection of over three
million objects from the past.

A treasure trove so vast, most

pieces are rarely displayed.

In 2006, the museum closed its

doors for a major two-year renovation.

But its curators took
on a special mission.

Find among the museum's greatest

pieces, a new way to
experience America's past.

And it's all here in the

"treasures of American history."

The vision for the
exhibition was to remind

people that American history is

a story, a series of stories
that includes amazing

accomplishments, legendary
individuals, challenging

milestones and defining moments

of American history, as well as

extraordinary diversity.

Curators Katy Kendrick and

Peter Liebhold spearheaded the

selections for the exhibition.

Here in the museum, treasure

is really about the story that

something that can, and that's

where the true value really resides.

The idea of doing a treasures

exhibit was both really exciting

and also, really daunting.

The chance to go into the
storage rooms, to find the

hidden corners and the cabinets

where there are things that

hadn't been exhibited in years,

or even ever, and to learn from

the curators themselves what

objects they knew about, and

that they felt were treasures.

The ones in the front row here.

Peter and Katy decided
to include objects that

represent both America's
triumphs... And her tragedies.

We always celebrate our past.

Then it looks easy if we
understand where we sometimes

stumbled, we are better equipped

to answer the challenges of the future.

In all, 150

treasures, all icons, were
chosen, representing the

exhibition's basic themes;

the nation's challenges,
our most influential people.

But first, the country's spirit

of creativity and innovation,
the story of America.

Creativity innovation
is very fundamentally

an American trait.

We tell the story of
innovation and industrial scene.

But we also talk about how daily

life has been fundamentally

changed through innovation and creativity.

It's impossible to imagine
the story of American

innovation without one man, Thomas Edison.

Despite little formal schooling,

his work would make him a star.

In 1878, Edison is already
famous the world over

as the man who can make a machine talk.

He's invented the phonograph and

that's made his reputation.

And so after this, he's kind of

thinking about, okay, what can I do next.

Choosing one object to
represent Edison's genius is


But out of his record 1,093

patents, only one is the literal

definition of a bright
idea... The electric light bulb.

This is one of the few surviving

bulbs from Edison's first public

demonstration of his
most famous invention.

December 31st, 1879, Edison

prepares to go public with his

latest bulb, much to
the relief of his investors.

He invites the world to a
demonstration at his lab in

menlo park.

Special trains were run out

from New York to bring, not just

the investors, but, you know,
various people who were

interested, because
Edison was a celebrity.

He lit the lab, he lit the

office, he lit the grounds, and

he lit Sarah Jordan's boarding

house, across the street with 60

or 70 of the new light bulbs.

This demonstration was
significant in that it was the

application that got people to

wire their homes, to wire their

businesses, to wire their
schools and factories.

And this is what ordinary people

began to see as a way to
use this wondrous new force.

The national museum
of American history has

collected hundreds of Edison's

bulbs. But the true treasure
is the bulb from the night

Thomas Edison turned
on the lights for America.

Edison felt vindicated
by this demonstration.

It just solidified his reputation.

And here's the man who can bring

light to the masses, and indeed

that's how he was portrayed for

most of the rest of his life.

While Edison help light
up streets, homes and

businesses, another 19th century

invention shed light on how
Americans saw themselves.

George eastman's Kodak
camera of 1888 is a small

hand-held box.

It was the first hand-held
snapshot camera, and

George eastman was able
to revolutionize the field of


Suddenly, picture-taking
became convenient and easy.

Everything was done for you by Kodak.

So you'd buy a camera for $25,

and it would be fully loaded
with a hundred images.

So you could take those hundred

images. When you were finished,

you would send it back to

Rochester to the eastman-Kodak company.

They would print your negatives,

you would get your prints

returned to you, along with the

negatives, and for ten
dollars, it was all done.

In today's money, that's over 200 dollars.

Not cheap, but it was a hit.

Perhaps no art form has
dominated American culture more

than moving pictures.

So choosing one movie to

represent nearly a hundred years

of Hollywood was a challenge.

Curators settled on a timeless favorite.


One, two, three.

There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.

"The wizard of oz"

premiered in 1939, leading

audiences through an imaginary

world of vivid technicolor.

It was a film that, as a
creative masterpiece,

combines the new technology of

technicolor with the execution

of really an innovative
and wonderful story.

Toto, I have a feeling we're
not in Kansas any more.

The Ruby slippers, worn by Judy Garland's

character, Dorothy, are
instantly recognizable.

Today, they're among the most

popular objects in the
museum's collection.

They are priceless
shoes. The joy of the Ruby

slippers is that they remain

a real icon in American culture

that have power well beyond the

shoes, well beyond their
display, well beyond the film.

And can anyone imagine
Dorothy's slippers in

any other color?

But originally, they
weren't supposed to be red.

In frank baum's book, the basis

for the movie, the slippers are

actually silver, and they stayed

that way through an early
draft of the screenplay.

But the producers felt silver

wasn't dramatic enough for technicolor.

So, the slippers' seemingly
perfect color choice was

actually a last minute change.

Because the film had to
connote fantasy, the shoes

had to have an inner power, and

that Ruby glow was
what made them have that.

Yet all those years in the
spotlight would take the

sparkle out of anything,
even Ruby slippers.

Deep in the basement of the

museum in an area off limits to

visitors, is the objects conservation lab.

Conservator Beth Richwine has

the delicate task of getting

America's treasures ready for display.

Well, I'm cleaning the Ruby

slippers and I've had to do some

tests to figure out what
I can clean them with.

They're actually very faded

because they've been on
exhibit for many, many years.

So I'm hoping some of the dirt

removal will brighten them up.

Chemical tests on the
slippers reveal that the

sequins are made of gelatin, an

organic substance easily damaged

by most cleaning solvents.

So Beth must use a small bit of

cotton dipped in ice water to clean them.

It's a painstaking job
done one sequin at a time.

At first, you think, oh wow,

the Ruby slippers, and no
one else gets to touch these.

But once you start on it and you

start doing the task, it's
really... it's all about the

materials and how they're going to react.

Then you're concerned about that

sort of thing and not so much,

you know, distracted by the

glitz of what they actually are.

Beth's job can be a little
like a forensic detective's.

Using a hand-held microscope,

she uncovers the
secret behind the sparkle.

And as I move this over
the shoe, you can see in an

area like this, that there's

like a netting underneath the

sequins. And it was just a
normal shoe and they put the

netting over it to allow them to

stitch the sequins into the piece.

From the beginnings of
colored film to the birth of

the blockbuster, innovations in

movie making have had an
enormous impact on popular


At first glance, the next

objects representing innovation

seem humble in comparison.

But half a century ago, they

held the power to save thousands of lives.

These tiny bottles contained a

vaccine to prevent polio, a

virus that put fear into
the heart of every parent.

It struck infants and children

without warning, often causing

lifelong paralysis, or death.

For most of the twentieth
century before aids

came on the scene, polio was the

most famous, or infamous disease

in the country, because it
caused paralysis, mostly in


That trauma is what made
it so fearful and so famous.

In 1952, the worst polio
outbreak in U.S. history

struck nearly 58,000 American children.

Over a third were left with some

form of paralysis, losing the

use of their limbs, or
even their lungs, for life.

Five percent of the victims died.

Then, two years later, one man found hope.

There were hundreds of
researchers who worked on the

problem of how to
create a vaccine for polio.

And then, Salk comes on the

scene and figures out a way to

create a vaccine that is
safe, potent and effective.

In 1954, Dr. Jonas Salk oversaw a

clinical trial of his vaccine.

At 215 test sites, 1.8 million

school children lined up for shots.

These vaccine bottles and
syringe were used by Dr. Salk

himself to vaccinate
children during the test.

They took blood from all the kids and then

analyzed all the data and then

announced that, sure
enough, the vaccine worked.

It was, I think, like 80

percent, 75 percent effective.

Church bells rang, mothers cried

and hugged their children, and

Jonas Salk became an overnight celebrity.

He was a hero.

He was on TV and radio.

He got thousands and thousands

of letters of "thank you" within

days because it was such a major event.

So, this tiny little vial and

this small syringe were part of

such a monumental event in history.

The Salk polio vaccine
was not only a medical

innovation, it was a dramatic
response to a national


And there had been many others

in the two centuries
since the nation's founding.

Every American needs to
understand that there have been

challenges in the past, and that

there are no simple
answers to those challenges.

So these objects remind us of

the struggles that we've
been through and they can also

provide inspiration for dealing

with struggles that we face now.

An obvious starting
point is the challenge that

began in 1776, the founding of a nation.

It's a story with no
shortage of famous artifacts.

But one of the most significant,

maybe the least known...

A small wooden box that helped

launch one of the great
turning points in history.

Jefferson's writing table
was the table on which he

wrote the declaration of independence.

And this is a very significant,

if not the most significant
object in our collection.

Jefferson was doing a
lot of traveling at the time

of the declaration of
independence was about to be

written, between monticello,
his home in Virginia, and

Philadelphia, where the
continental congress was


And so, one of the things he

thought would be to have this

portable writing desk that he

could take with him on his travels.

Thomas Jefferson, on
the order of the continental

congress in Philadelphia,
was commissioned to write the

declaration on June 11th, 1776.

Those famous words we
all know so well, or do we?

Can you recite any
part of the declaration of



Um... Oh my god.

We the people.

We the people in order to
form a more perfect union.

We the people of the united

states in order to form a more

perfect union establish justice,

ensure domestic tranquility.

When in the course of human
events... We might struggle

with the words, but we'll
never forget the meaning.

Jefferson drafted parts of the

declaration on this very desk.

And on July 4th, 1776, the
American colonies proclaimed

their freedom from British rule.

It's such a wonderful moment in history.

The formation of the ideals of

the country, the drafting of the

declaration of independence, the

coming together of a bunch of

people to determine what
stands to this very day.

Jefferson knew America
would cherish the desk

upon which the declaration was drafted.

And so, attached a note to it,

one rarely, if ever, seen by the public.

Unfortunately, we can't
display it upside down in

the exhibit.

So it's kind of a hidden
treasure of this object.

That there is this note attached

to the bottom in Jefferson's own

handwriting in which
he says... "Politics as

"well as religion" has its superstitions.

"These gaining strength with

"time may one day give imaginary

"value to this relic for its

"association with the birth of

"the great charter of our independence."

So it's a nice kind of
glimpse into Jefferson's

personality that knowing that

Americans would have
this hunger for history.

A personal note from
the founding father adds a

rare touch to an American treasure.

But Jefferson's words were just

the first salvo in a struggle
that would be settled at


Far from public view,
one special room holds an

extraordinary collection
of historical firepower.

It's kind of fun coming
in here in what would be

a room full of guns, everyday.

Curator David Miller is the keeper of

the museum's gun room,
officially known as the national

firearms collection.

It's the most comprehensive
assortment of historical

firearms in America.

From military firearms used

today to a hand cannon
dating from the 15th century.

In one row alone, there are

racks of muskets, a drawer full

of civil war era percussion

revolvers, and even the mother

of all Swiss army knives.

It has over a hundred
blades on it, and they include a

revolver, a straight razor, and

even miniature blades and scissors.

From this 7,000-piece collection, curators

chose just three for the
exhibition, the Colt Patterson

revolver of 1839, a
rare revolver used by a

confederate officer,
and a rifle presented to

president Abraham Lincoln.

The 1839 Colt Patterson
revolver is known as

"the gun that won the west"

thanks to an ingenious innovation.

It's a five-shot 36-caliber revolver.

At the time it was developed and

invented, most pistols only

fired one shot at a time,
and you had to reload them.

This one has a cylinder that

contains five charges, so you

can get out five shots without reloading.

A very effective weapon for the times.

The next treasure is as
famous for its owner as

its innovation.

This 45-caliber six-shot
revolver once belonged to

confederate leader Jeb Stuart.

This is a double-action revolver.

That means by pulling the
trigger, you cock the piece,

rotate the cylinder, and fire

the revolver all with one pull.

And this was favored by the

cavalry men who had to ride with

their left hand and shoot
with their right hand.

The third treasure is a remarkable rifle.

But it's remembered more
as a present to a president.

This is a Henry rifle that

was presented to Abraham Lincoln

in 1862, from the new haven

firearms manufacturing company.

The company presented it to

Lincoln in hopes that it would

influence the war department
into purchasing the Henry

for the military.

It's gold plated and ornately

engraved, and it has a
cartouche here that says,

"Lincoln, president u.S.A."

But the gift didn't convince
Lincoln to buy any for

his army. His military
leaders felt "the Henry" was too

delicate for harsh battlefield conditions.

Abraham Lincoln, himself, could

be called a national treasure.

The man who freed the slaves and

saved the union gets his
own tribute in the treasures

exhibition with a simple item

that evokes both his
stature and his tragic end.

It's unassuming and
worn by time, but instantly


This was not the only
top hat Lincoln owned.

But it's the last one he ever wore.

Ten P.M., April 14th, 1865.

During a performance at Ford's

theater, John Wilkes booth steps

into the presidential box, aims

his pistol, and shoots
Lincoln in the back of the head.

Nine hours later, the president is dead.

From that tragic night,
many objects have survived.

It was a crime scene and many things were

gathered up by the war
department for a potential


The top hat was among
the artifacts transferred

to the Smithsonian nearly two

years after Lincoln's death.

But the institution secretary

considered it too ghoulish for

public view, and the hat was
banished to the basement.

No one was allowed to talk about it.

No one was allowed to see it.

It really didn't exist.

Lincoln's hat was first
displayed about 30 years

after the fact.

And by that time, the event had

ceased to be as morbid as they

were, and they had
become much more historical.

The hat is this different
way of seeing Lincoln,

because on the one hand, it is

an icon of his public image.

But yet, when you actually look

at this hat, and it's maybe

smaller than you might expect,

and it's old, and it's faded.

But it also has an individual

character. It really humanizes

Lincoln. He was a real man. He

was a real person, and that

connection is what objects can

give us, and that's what
the Lincoln hat does.

Lincoln's hat, Jefferson's
desk, and a gun that

changed the west.

Small artifacts that crystallize

moments in challenging times.

Less than a century after

Lincoln, America was in a life

and death global struggle, world war ii.

On d-day, June 6th, 1944,

American troops took part in the

largest seaborne invasion in history.

The museum's curators looked for

a way to capture this pivotal

moment and found it
in the work of one man.

Robert capa was a magazine photographer,

contracting with life magazine,

at the time of world war ii.

And he was one of two magazine

photographers who were able to

go in on the d-day invasion.

Capa went in on the USS chase

with about 2,000 gi soldiers,

Americans, and did the
same thing that they did.

The Robert capa photograph of

d-day shows the gis launching

off the barges and jumping into

the water, which he had to do

himself. So you see their backs,

and you see them blurred
because he's in action just

like they are. And Germans had

put obstacles in their way.

So they're jumping, they're
moving, they're swimming.

And he was scared.

Capa conquered his
fear long enough to shoot

several rolls. His film
survived the bloody battle.

But later, a terrible mistake
nearly destroyed it all.

He got about three rolls
of film, 72 images or so,

and the film was rushed back to

the London offices of life
magazine. Everyone was so

excited to get that film back

that the technician
rushed through the job.

And when the negatives, the

films were drying, he turned up

the heat to have it done
quicker, and the emulsion

melted, and they lost almost
all of capa's photographs.

Only eleven survived, of
which our museum has nine.

Two weeks after the
invasion, Robert capa's

highly anticipated images
appeared in life magazine.

They are now among the most

famous photos of world war ii.

Capa's adage that if
your pictures aren't good

enough, you're not close
enough, is certainly born out

in this image. He was there. He

was in the thick of it. And

those images he brought back

are arresting and compelling,

and they really do just connect

you to this moment that's

engrained in our popular memory.

Less than two decades
later, Americans faced

another national challenge,
another fight for freedom,

but this time, on home soil.

Explosive demonstrations rock the north as

well as the south, as
negroes struggled for equal


The objects in this scene
could be from any town's

corner drugstore.

But they symbolize the
battle for equal rights in the

segregated south.

On February 1st, 1960, in
Greensboro, North Carolina,

four black university
students did the unthinkable.

They sat down at a "whites only"

woolworth's lunch counter.

They were denied service
and were asked to leave.

They continued to sit in at this

lunch counter at woolworth's
for the next six months.

It was a courageous
act in direct defiance of

segregation, and led to
other sit-ins across the south.

This is the actual counter where

those four students first took

a stand. After that first day,

many more joined them, risking

arrest, injury and retaliation.

Six months later, on July 25th,

woolworth's gave in and served

its first African-American customer.

After a week, they had
served hundreds more.

The Greensboro student sit-ins

inspired non-violent protests in

other states, eventually leading

to the desegregation of
restaurants, theaters and

concert halls throughout the south.

The lunch counter is a very

powerful symbol of the
civil rights movement.

Many people who come to the
museum instantly understand

the significance.

The lunch counter honors
a moment in history and

a triumph for equal rights.

Another treasure, this
wheelchair, honors a man who

fought another form of discrimination.

It's custom built to be operated

with only one finger, and its

driver, Ed Roberts, became
a leader in the struggle for

disability rights.

He helped ignite a
movement. He not only changed

how society viewed people with

disabilities, but he also helped

people with disabilities change

the way they viewed themselves.

When he was 14

years old, Ed contracted the

polio virus that plagued the nation.

Though unable to move, he still

dreamed of going to college...

Although most universities did

not accommodate people
with severe disabilities.

But Roberts decided to fight for

acceptance, and in 1962,
he won the right to attend the

University of California at Berkeley.

The first thing that Ed

really cut his activist teeth on

was, in a sense, integrating
Berkeley for people with


He and a couple other
guys called themselves

"the rolling quads."

Roberts went on to earn
two masters degrees, and

decided to spend his
life helping others with

disabilities. He started a
global movement to teach

independent living to
people with disabilities...

And to advocate for the civil

rights of disabled people.

He was instrumental in explaining the

importance of access and ramps,

and thinking about people
whose bodies are different.

But he also was a great leader

for people with disabilities
to show that you can still

achieve all that meets your

own potential wherever
you are, whoever you are.

In struggling to assert his rights and his

abilities, Ed Roberts really
became a role model to

thousands of people with
disabilities around the world.

Ed Roberts is just one
example of how a single

individual can provoke powerful change.

The treasures exhibition created

a whole category to explore the

personalities that helped
shape American history.

American biography really
gives us the opportunity

to show off some of the famous

objects in our collection that

tell the stories of celebrated

individuals, that give
new glimpses into their

personalities, and also
symbolize the achievements and

what they accomplished.

But in all of American
history, whose story

should be told first?

Who, for you, is the
most recognizable person

in American history?

If I had to pick one, I'd say Lincoln.

John F. Kennedy.

Ben Franklin.

Martin Luther King, junior.

Abraham Lincoln.

I would say George Washington.

I'll probably say George Washington.

George Washington.

George Washington
is probably still the most

famous American.

Whenever there are surveys taken

about recognizable
figures in American history,

George Washington always
comes out number one.

With his face on the
dollar bill, Washington is

part of everyday life.

Even in his own time, he was a

celebrity, the first military

first president of a newly minted country.

George Washington is so
engrained in the public mind

that even his clothes seem familiar.

Washington knew that clothes

made the man, and chose his carefully.

The general officer's uniform

reflects the style he wore to

official functions when he
wanted to emphasize his role

as commander-in-chief.

But Washington didn't have
to rely on clothing alone to

command attention.

He was over six feet
tall, and it was something

that was commented on by his

contemporaries that you just saw

this man and you sensed he was a

leader. He carried himself very

regally, very impressively.

George Washington was
the first of many famous

presidents. But when it comes

to first ladies, one
stands out as an icon.

In the 1960 presidential

election, the country voted for

Jack, but fell in love with Jackie.

On route to their new address, 1600

Pennsylvania Avenue, John and

Jacqueline Kennedy are
cheered by nearly a million.

Everyone wanted to know
what the fashionable young

first lady would wear
to the inaugural ball.

Jackie Kennedy didn't disappoint.

It was a very slim
dress. It's a sheath rather

than a big bouffanty skirt,

it's made of silk, a very shear

silk called peau d'ange.

The bodice of the dress is
embroidered with silver and

brilliance or crystals.

And then that is covered by an

over a blouse of chiffon.

So it really gave people just a

hint as she was passing by that

there was something shimmering

underneath. And the gown was

worn with a matching
cape, also made of silk.

The gown was an instant
success and American

women had a new icon.

The thing about Jackie
Kennedy is, it was what

she wore, but it was also how

she wore it, the poise, the

elegance, and the glamour
that she just radiated.

And a lot of her clothes are

fairly simple and understated.

So it was much more than the

design itself, but the overall

"Jackie look" that women,
especially, really gravitated

towards and wanted to emulate.

First ladies occupied this
unique place in American

society. They're public
figures, but they're also

expected to be private in the

sense that they're wives and

mothers. Jackie Kennedy really

did redefine that, and it's

definitely made her much more

than a first lady. She is an

icon, and remains to this day.

Not all of the influential
figures that have

touched American lives are actual people.

In fact, one famous figure that

has influenced the American

identity isn't human at all.

It's a toy.

My favorite childhood
toy was the television.

The slinky.


I had a rocket ship.

My marbles.

Probably legos.


Gi Joe's.

I'd probably just say my Barbies.

I loved Barbie.


* Barbie you're beautiful...
* you make me feel...

* my Barbie doll is really real... *

Barbie debuted in 1959 in New York City.

She became an instant bestseller

for the mattel toy company.

But not everyone was
enamored with the new doll.

Barbie has gotten her share of criticism.

When she first came out, there

were some people who felt she

was a little sleazy, almost.

Barbie's anatomy had
generated controversy over

the years. Some critics claimed

that a real women with Barbie's

measurements would stand over

seven feet tall, while
weighing under 130 pounds.

But Barbie still sells.

Worldwide, two dolls
are sold every second.

And almost 50 years later, she

has become a 1.9 billion dollar

a year industry for mattel.

* my Barbie doll is really real... *

* Barbie doll is really real... America's

treasures not only includes

Barbie's toy story, but also

the real-life one-two punch of

one of the greatest legends in sports.

Who's the greatest?

You are!

Who's the prettiest?

You are!

Muhammad Ali was a
young boxer that transcended

his sport and became famous

throughout the world for his

actions both in and outside the ring.

These were his trademark tools.

Three-time world
heavyweight boxing champion,

the sportsman of the century,

and a humanitarian crusader,

Muhammad Ali is one of the most

prominent Americans living today.

He has one of the most
famous faces in the world.

And we've got his gloves.

That definitely says a lot.

Ali's rise to boxing glory began in 1964

when, as Cassius Clay, he won

his first heavyweight title

against champion, Sonny liston.

Soon after, he converted
to islam and took the name

Muhammad Ali. He often
drew criticism for his religious

beliefs and social statements.

One of the defining moments for

Muhammad Ali's career and his

life came about in 1966 during
the Vietnam war when was

notified that he was eligible
for the draft. And he had

recently converted to islam, and

he did not want to go to fight

in the Vietnam war. And he made

a statement as such saying, "I

ain't got not quarrel with them

Vietcong." and he held his

convictions that he should not

be forced to go off and fight

for a government that oppressed

his own people at home, let
alone against a people with

whom, as he said, he
had no quarrel, no problem.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. Muhammad Ali has just

refused to be inducted into

the United States armed forces.

Ali's convictions would
cost him his heavyweight


The boxing commission stripped him of his

title, they banned him from

boxing, and he was prosecuted

as a draft dodger. So that

moment really crystallized
his importance, not just as

a sports hero, but as a cultural

icon, as an inspiration to

other folks who felt powerless.

In 1970, he was allowed
to return to the ring.

Ultimately, the supreme
court validated him and

upheld his claim that he
was, in fact, a conscientious

objector. But he had lost
everything in that time.

In 1974, Ali regained
his heavyweight title

by beating George Foreman in

Zaire in the famous fight known

as "the rumble in the jungle."

* I'm the one, the ace, the only *

* I'm the king then in 1975, Ali

defended his title against Joe Frazier in

"the thrilla in Manilla."

In "the thrilla in Manilla"
fight we do know that

he wore red gloves. Whether

these are the gloves, I think

Ali would have liked us to
think that they were. But we

don't say for sure.

The gloves not only represent Ali's skill

inside the ring, but also his

determination to stand
up for his beliefs outside it.

* oh yeah!

Another great American also followed his

conscience. The symbol
of his fight, this simple hoe.

It caused thousands of workers

to suffer and its owner
fought to ban its use.

This is a short-handle hoe. It's really

interesting because it's
more than just an agricultural

implement. It's a symbol of
oppression and the symbol

ultimately of achievement.

The hoe was used
by the family of activist,

Cesar Chavez.

If they're not working, they

should have the right as
any other working American...

He was the firsthand witness to the

terrible plight of migrant farm

workers and labored to improve

their circumstances. His family

and thousands of other migrant

workers toiled for unbearably

long days, were paid low wages,

and worked under
painfully harsh conditions.

Cesar Chavez is a
very significant person in

terms of American history.

He historically transcends his

experience as an organizer of

the united farm workers and
moves onto being one of the

nation's most important civil

rights leaders, and an
icon of the latino community.

Because of his amazing
leadership qualities,

his ability to lead and also

organize, he's become
an almost mythic figure.

When Cesar was
young, his family lost their

farm and they were forced
to join the ranks of migrant


He never forgot the
short-handled hoe and its

backbreaking lesson.

So the fact that the
family saved this hoe says

that it really had a lot of
meanings to them as far as

a reminder of their own history

and also the struggle that
the farm workers were waging

against the working conditions.


I think the hoe is really
significant to the family,

significant to many agricultural workers.

The short-handled hoe, you have

to stoop over. You have to bend

right down, almost be on the

ground. Growers claimed that it

made them more accurate. But

most people think it was really

just a symbol of oppression
that it showed who was in

control. It was finally made illegal.

Chavez organized the
farm workers into a union

in 1962. He eventually helped

to make the short-handle hoe illegal.

Under his leadership, the
united farm workers became

a political force, inspiring
further latino activism.

The treasures exhibition also

houses the jacket that Chavez

once wore at rallies,
strikes and work sites.

The life of Cesar Chavez shows

how a single individual can
foster change that affects

millions of people, transforming a nation,

and in turbulent times,
he did it without violence.

America's treasures range
from the delicate glass of

Edison's genius... to a favorite

toy, from Lincoln's simple

topper, to Dorothy's technicolor

footwear, each a testament
to America's diverse story.

But one piece of history remains

missing, the story of American music.

As part of that story, the

exhibition displays an object

that's not an instrument, but

the perfect symbol for a musical

voice unique to America.

He was blind by the age of seven.

Yet, Ray Charles' musical
genius was undeniable.

And by his death, he had become

one of the most influential

American musicians of our time.

When I see those
sunglasses, I think of the

obstacles that Ray Charles
overcame to become an

innovator, a person who helped

create a whole new style of music.

* oh beautiful far spacious skies... *

Ray Charles was hailed as a pianist, a

songwriter, and a band leader.

But surely his most enduring

contribution was as a singer.

He drew so much on his life's

experience that you could say

his voice was the voice of
experience, perhaps even the

voice of America. If not the

voice of America, surely one of

its most special, unique
and wonderful voices.

* I'm talking about
America, sweet America *

* you know, god done
shed... We're very pleased

to have Ray's Ray-bans,
Ray Charles' sunglasses which

are as an iconic a symbol of him

as anything we could possibly

have on display, so much so that

upon Ray Charles' death,
the editorial cartoonist,

Mike Peters, penned a single

frame editorial cartoon showing

a pair of sunglasses with a big

old tear coming down the side.

There was a no caption except

"Ray Charles." It didn't need

a caption. These sunglasses

really stand for Ray Charles.

Using only 150

objects from a collection
of three million, the

Smithsonian's national museum of

American history has created a

new perspective on America.

It is a story that unfolds using

the greatest pieces of history

from a collection unmatched in its scope.

But the museum's treasure not

only describe the events
and people of the past...

They offer a unique journey

through the American experience.