Over 40 Years of Inspiring, Empowering and Engaging Students and Educators

Close Up’s mission – informing, inspiring, and empowering young people to exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy – is deeply rooted in Close Up’s unique history and founding. During the late 1960’s, Close Up founder Steve Janger brought high school students from around the country to Europe in order to study foreign governments. However, as events in the United States and the rest of the world unfolded, Janger began to see a growing cynicism surrounding American government and policies. Dedicated to student travel but determining there was a need for students to gain a better understanding of their own government; Janger founded the Close Up Foundation in 1971. While there were other programs available at the time that catered solely to high-achieving students, Janger understood the need to involve all students in the democratic process through current issue debates, collaborative learning, and the development of citizenship skills. For over 41 years, Close Up has strived to fulfill that mission and the goals of its founder by inspiring, empowering, and engaging young people and educators from across the United States and the world.

1970-1971 Close Up’s first program year is a small but successful one. The Washington High School Program begins with 554 students from Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas.

1971-1972 The Allen J. Ellender Fellowship Program is approved by Congress. Georgia and Louisiana join the program.

1973-1974 Close Up produces its first video for classroom use.

1975 Close Up launches its first program for hearing-impaired students.

1975-1976 Close Up welcomes its 10,000th participant on program and publishes the first edition of Current Issues. President Gerald Ford speaks to Close Up students.

1977-1978 Close Up, which now includes participants from 26 states, begins its teacher program, providing educators with valuable professional development opportunities in Washington. Visually-impaired students take part in the program for the first time.

1978-1979 Close Up’s first C-SPAN show is produced.

1979-1980 The first international students participate in a Close Up program.

1981-1982 Close Up Television wins an ACE Award, an award for excellence in cable television, and a Silver Award from the International Film and Video Festival.

1983-1984 Close Up partners with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to launch the first Washington/Williamsburg High School Program. President Ronald Reagan speaks to Close Up students.

1984-1985 U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools begin participating on program with students from Panama and Guantanamo Bay.

1985-1986 Close Up programs reach students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

1986-1987 The first Close Up Pacific Basin Program runs in Honolulu to explore key issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Close Up partners with the Bureau of Indian Education to bring students from BIE schools on program for the first time.

1987-1988 Recently immigrated students participate in Close Up’s first Program for New Americans.

1988-1989 More than 2,000 students and teachers participate on the first Close Up Inauguration Program, witnessing President-elect George H.W. Bush take the oath of office. This is the largest single Close Up program to date.

1989-1990 President Bush meets with Close Up students at the White House for a televised question and answer session. Close Up conducts its first American Indian residential program, Navajo Nation Close Up, in Arizona.

1990-1991 Students participate in the first Close Up USSR program. Close Up Television is awarded the Media and Methods Excellence in Education Award for Democracy and Rights: One Citizen’s Challenge, narrated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

1992-1993 Close Up launches its first program for middle school students.

1993-1994 Close Up partners with the U.S. State Department to conduct programming for students from the former USSR. Close Up publishes the Citizenship in Balance textbook, which examines the rights and responsibilities of Native Americans as dual citizens.

1995-1996 Close Up celebrates its 400,000th participant. Two Close Up alumni are elected as members of Congress—Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Representative Adam Smith, D-Wash.

1996-1997 Close Up partners with American Express for the First Vote initiative, which provides voter registration and education to students and teachers. Close Up and C-SPAN partner with the Newseum for show production. Close Up begins a partnership with United South and Eastern Tribes to provide programming to students from USET tribes.

1998-1999 President Bill Clinton addresses Close Up students. Close Up produces Profiles of Freedom: A Living Bill of Rights and earns an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award.

2000-2001 Close Up begins a partnership with Freedom Forum focusing on aspiring high school journalism students. The inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush draws 4,500 participants—the largest Washington program to date.

2001-2002 Close Up launches the first Great American Cities Program, helping students in select cities create community action initiatives.

2004-2005 Close Up partners with the U.S. State Department to conduct programming for students from the Middle East. Close Up students meet with President Bush in the White House Rose Garden.

2006-2007 Close Up begins programming in New York City for high school students and in Philadelphia for middle school students.

2008-2009 Close Up begins a partnership with the National Indian Education Association to provide programming to students from tribes across the country. More than 3,000 participants witness history at the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

2010-2011 Close Up supports students from military families with a new program, Operation Next Generation, sponsored by Deloitte. Close Up celebrates 40 years of civic education through the Civic Excellence Award at the Close Up Congressional Reception. Honored Close Up alumni include Senators Landrieu and David Vitter, R-La., and Representatives Rob Bishop, R-Utah, David Cicilline, D-R.I., James Lankford, R-Okla., Patrick McHenry, D-N.C., Smith, Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, and Tim Walz, D-Minn.

2011-2012 Close Up expands its customized programming by welcoming more than 700 participants from Boys and Girls Clubs of America to Washington.

2012-2013 Representatives Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., are honored with the Civic Excellence Award at the Close Up Congressional Reception.

2014-2015 Close Up celebrates the 25th anniversary of PNA and conducts its first state youth summit, Rally to Tally, in Florida for immigrant students. Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Representatives Tom Cole, R-Okla., Joe Garcia, D-Fla., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., receive the Civic Excellence Award at the Close Up Congressional Reception.

2015-2016 Close Up becomes a founding member of the Alliance for Teaching Democracy to support the work of teachers around the country, alongside National Council for the Social Studies, the League of Women Voters, CIRCLE and iCivics.


"It seems so cliché to say, but Close Up is life changing for both students and teachers. In my 28 years of teaching I feel Close Up has been my greatest experience. I have seen it change hundreds of students’ lives and has given them opportunities you can only experience on Close Up."

   – Jon, Teacher, GA
Educating for democracy since 1971