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Lesson Idea: Celebrity vs. Expert Testimony


In this lesson, students will examine the role of celebrities and experts testifying in front of Congressional Committees. Specifically, they will:


  • a) understand the function of Congressional Committee hearings and
  • b) evaluate the effectiveness and importance of celebrity and expert testimony.



  • Congressional Committee
  • Testimony
  • Committee Chair
  • Expert Witness




1) Introduce the topic of Congressional Committee hearings through an assigned reading and engage in a class discussion regarding their procedure and purpose.


2) Show the following. C-SPAN VIDEO CLIP: Celebrity Testimony in Congressional hearings (1:17). 
Have students summarize the pros and cons of celebrity testimony according to Ted Johnson of Variety.


3) Have students participate in a “Take a Stand” activity:

       a) Post a “celebrity” sign on one side of the room and an “expert” sign on the other. Pose the

           question, “Whose testimony before a Congressional Committee do you think would be more   


       b) Have students summarize their opinion in a brief paragraph. Students can use this to compare

            their positions after completing the lesson.

       c) Have students divide themselves into the two categories. Explain that the students may fall

           somewhere in between the two choices, and should position themselves accordingly.

       d) Have students from each group explain their rationale for their position.


4) Divide students into groups to view videos of celebrities and experts testifying before Congressional Committees. Group size will vary depending on class size, time available, and the number of videos you want each group to watch.


5) Assign each group one or more hearings to watch from below. As they are watching the testimony, have them complete the following handout and discuss their findings within the small group: Celebrity vs. Expert Testimony Handout (.PDF) or (Word Doc)


6) Have a member from each group report on their findings to the entire class. Ensure they summarize the issue and present the testimony of each participant and explain the effectiveness of each.


7) After hearing from each group, have students write an essay that should include:

        a) The role of Congressional Committee hearings

        b) The importance of testimony at the hearings

        c) The effectiveness of both celebrities and experts giving testimony

        d) Their opinion on the appropriateness and impact of celebrity testimony


Video Clips from Congressional Hearings:


01) Helen Mirren, Actress

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Holocaust Art Recovery Act (06/07/2016)

VIDEO CLIP: Monica Dugot, International Restitution Director for Christies Inc (6:41)

VIDEO CLIP: Helen Mirren, Actress (7:42)


02) Bono, Musician

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Combating Violent Extremism (04/12/2016)

VIDEO CLIP: Gen. James Jones (Ret.), Former Obama Administration National Security Adviser (7:33)

VIDEO CLIP: Bono, U2 lead singer (9:56)


03) Elton John, Musician

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Global Health Programs (05/06/2015)

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (7:15)

VIDEO CLIP: Elton John, Musician (7:02)


04) Seth Rogen, Actor

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Alzheimer's Disease Research (02/16/2014)

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (12:21)

VIDEO CLIP: Seth Rogen, Actor (6:14)


05) George Clooney, Actor

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Situation in Sudan and South Sudan (03/14/2012

Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for USAID Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau (6:20)

VIDEO CLIP: Jonathan Temin, Director of the U.S. Institute of Peace Sudan (5:13)

VIDEO CLIP: George Clooney, Actor, Satellite Sentinel Project Co-Founder and Human Rights Activist (5:58)


06) Steve Colbert, Host and Executive Producer, The Late Show

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Immigrant Farm Workers (09/04/2010)

Phil Glaize, Represents the U.S. Apple Association and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and Farmer (6:03)

VIDEO CLIP: Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers (5:30)

VIDEO CLIP: Stephen Colbert, Host and Executive Producer, The Late Show (5:17)


07) Kevin Costner, Actor

Full Program: Oil Spill Cleanup Technology (06/09/2010)

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Jeffrey Short, Director of Oceana, Pacific Science (4:53)

VIDEO CLIP: Kevin Costner, Actor and Ocean Therapy Solutions Partner (8:57)


08) Sean Penn, Actor

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Haiti Earthquake Recovery (05/19/2010)

VIDEO CLIP: Chris Milligan, Disaster Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (4:59)

VIDEO CLIP: Sean Penn, Actor (9:55)


09) Gabrielle Union, Actress (****Contains violent descriptive content which may offend****)

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Violence Against Women Act (06/10/2009)

VIDEO CLIP: Karen Tronsgrard-Scott, Director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (5:51)

VIDEO CLIP: Gabrielle Union, Actress (4:23)


10) David Banner and Master P, Rappers and Actors (****David Banner's testimony contains derogatory language which may offend****)

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images (09/25/2007)

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Author and Georgetown University Sociology Professor (7:52)

VIDEO CLIP: David Banner, Rapper (7:24)

VIDEO CLIP: Master P, former Rapper (7:22)


11) LL Cool J, Rapper and Actor

Complete Program:  Illegal File Sharing (09/30/2003)

VIDEO CLIP: Mitch Bainwol, Chair and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (6:44)

VIDEO CLIP: LL Cool J, Rapper and actor (6:08)


12) Michael J Fox, Actor and Muhammed Ali, Boxer

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Parkinson’s Disease (05/22/2002)

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Audrey Penn, Director of National Inst. of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (6:46)

VIDEO CLIP: Michael J Fox, Actor with Parkinson’s Disease (7:58)

VIDEO CLIP: Muhammed and Lonnie Ali, Former boxer with Parkinson’s disease (6:56)


13) Lars Ulrich, Musician

Full Program: The Future of Digital Music (07/11/2000)

VIDEO CLIP: Fred Uhlrich, President, New Technology of Sony Corporation (5:20)

VIDEO CLIP: Lars Ulrich , Drummer in the rock group, Metallica (7:54)


14) John Travolta, Actor

Complete Program: Religious Discrimination in Europe (09/18/1997)

VIDEO CLIP: Rev. Drew Christiansen, former Director of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (7:44)

VIDEO CLIP: John Travolta, Actor and Scientologist (9:42)


15) Oprah Winfrey and John Walsh, Television Hosts

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Child Protection Act of 1991 (11/12/1991)

VIDEO CLIP: Gordon Hardy, Inspector General for Texas Health and Human Services Department (5:18)

VIDEO CLIP: Oprah Winfrey, Former talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist (12:51)

VIDEO CLIP: John Walsh, Creator and former host of America's Most Wanted (11:07)


16) Robin Williams, Actor

FULL VIDEO OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Homelessness Prevention (05/09/1990)

VIDEO CLIP: Connie Perez, Director of the Children's Hope Program (11:43)

VIDEO CLIP: Robin Williams, Actor (6:18)