The Greatest American

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The Greatest American
Presented byMatt Lauer
Country of originUnited States
Executive producerJason Raff
Original networkDiscovery Channel
Original release5 June 2005 (2005-06-05)

The Greatest American was a four-part American television series hosted by Matt Lauer in 2005. The show featured biographies and lists of influential persons in U.S. history, and culminated in a contest in which millions in the audience nominated and voted for the person they felt was the "greatest American". The four-part competition was conducted by AOL and the Discovery Channel and reported on by the BBC.[1]

President Ronald Reagan achieved the highest position. His son, Ronald Reagan Jr., commented to the network that "I'm sure he would be very honored to be in the company of these great gentlemen." In total, the American public cast over 2.4 million votes during the nomination process.[2]

In detail, Martin Luther King Jr. was the highest-ranked person of color, at number three, while Oprah Winfrey, at number nine, was the highest-ranked woman. George W. Bush, at number six, had the highest status of any living American.


Nominations were accepted through 31 January 2005. The seven-hour-long series was broken into four episodes: The first episode counted down the top 100 and introduced the top 25 nominees in alphabetical order. The second episode featured biographies of the top 25 nominees as well as commentaries from influential people such as celebrities and politicians. The third episode, called "The Great Debate", introduced the top five nominees and pitted the studio audience supporters of each of the nominees and a person selected to represent each of the top five candidates against a panel of three celebrities. In the finale, the top five "Greatest Americans" were announced as well as what percentage of the votes each had received. Votes were taken through a toll-free (if calling from a land line) phone number, through text messages from cellphones, and through online voting. Voters were allowed to vote three times per voting method, so anyone had a chance of voting at least nine times.[citation needed]

Top Twenty-five[edit]

2. Abraham Lincoln,
16th president of the United States (1861–65).
3. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activist.
4. George Washington,
1st president of the United States (1789–97).
5. Benjamin Franklin,
author, inventor, statesman, and scientist.
  1. Ronald Reagan (1911–2004), actor and 40th president
  2. Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), 16th president
  3. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), minister and civil rights leader
  4. George Washington (1732–1799), general and 1st president
  5. Benjamin Franklin (1705–1790), author, printer, scientist and politician
  6. George W. Bush (born 1946), 43rd president
  7. Bill Clinton (born 1946), 42nd president
  8. Elvis Presley (1935–1977), musician and actor
  9. Oprah Winfrey (born 1954), talk show host and actress
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), 32nd president
  11. Billy Graham (1918–2018), minister
  12. Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), writer and 3rd president
  13. Walt Disney (1901–1966), animator and film producer
  14. Albert Einstein (1879–1955), physicist
  15. Thomas Alva Edison (1874–1931), inventor
  16. John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), 35th president
  17. Bob Hope (1903–2003), actor and comedian
  18. Bill Gates (born 1955), businessman
  19. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), First Lady, activist and diplomat
  20. Lance Armstrong (born 1971), cyclist
  21. Muhammad Ali (1942–2016), boxer
  22. Rosa Parks (1913–2005), civil rights activist
  23. The Wright Brothers, inventors and aviation pioneers
  24. Henry Ford (1863–1947), industrialist and businessman
  25. Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), astronaut

Alphabetical list[edit]

On 18 April 2005, AOL and The Discovery Channel announced the top 100 nominees.[3]

The remaining 75 nominees:

Other editions[edit]

Other countries have produced similar shows, see also: Greatest Britons spin-offs


  1. ^ Greatest American, retrieved 9 April 2020
  2. ^ Wilson, Jamie (27 June 2005). "The greatest American? Lincoln? Einstein? No - it's Ronald Reagan". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  3. ^ "The Top 100". Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 20 April 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2021.

External links[edit]