The life of Father Theodore “Ted” Hesburgh is examined: a life of inspiration, compassion, and integrity.

Dove Review

Hesburgh is an amazing movie about an amazing man, Father Ted Hesburgh. He was the University of Notre Dame president for many years as well as a world leader in civil rights and, eventually, stood against expanding the war in Vietnam. This inside look at Father Hesburgh gives many insights into a man who was a counselor to Ann Landers as well as many presidents, Catholic leaders, and his students at Notre Dame. In one touching scene, Time Magazine war correspondent Robert Sam Anson speaks of being captured in Cambodia and facing death, and one call from Father Ted to Pope Paul VI resulted in Anson’s release and freedom. He tears up as he speaks of personally thanking Father Ted after he regained his freedom.

The film uses interviews with Father Ted and his many acquaintances, as well as archived footage and photos to bring to life the background of an extraordinary man. At age 6, he knew he wanted to be a priest. This handsome man of action never missed having a family because the student body at Notre Dame—and indeed, much of the world—became his family. Other priests admired him, and Ann Landers called on him for advice for her newspaper column. Father Ted was the kind of man who could bridge the differences between political parties and bring them together to discuss their differences. He once brought peace to a Civil Rights commission that was made up of men of opposing opinions by having them all go fishing together at Land O’ Lakes in Wisconsin! The men relaxed and opened up to one another, eventually agreeing on 11 of 12 statements to finish a commission report with suggestions to enact them into law.

Presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, to Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan to Obama are seen in various photos and clips, talking or laughing with Father Ted. In a rather humorous scene it’s stated that, despite rubbing shoulders with the most important people in the world, Father Ted rarely asked for a favor. He asked President Carter if he could ride in one of the top secret planes as they were extremely fast and he wanted to experience it. “Those are not used by civilians” said Carter. “Oh, forgive me,” replied Ted, “I assumed you were the Commander-in-Chief!” Father Ted got his flight in the plane. He was a man with compassion, as portrayed when we learn that a girl whose father died went to Father Ted in tears, concerned that she would not be able to continue her education due to his death and her lack of funds. Father Ted made sure she finished and graduated.

Many historical events are highlighted in this documentary, including the civil rights movement, the Kent State tragedy and the death of the four students, Watergate, up to the installment of the first African-American president, President Barack Obama. The film contains some use of language from President Nixon through historical tapes, but this is an excellent, inspirational documentary that features a great historical perspective. We award the film our Dove-Approved Seal for Ages 12+.

The Dove Take:

Hesburgh showcases the amazing life of Father Ted Hesburgh and will inspire many with a life that was lived to honor God and to minister to both the small and the mighty.

Content Description

Faith: Father Ted and others show a faith in God and believe in the equality of people; Father Ted quotes from the Bible that whatever you do for the least of the people you have done it as unto God.
Integrity: Father Ted and others are determined to take a stand for the fairness and equality of people.
Sex: None
Language: From an historical perspective, we hear President Nixon's voice on tapes, and he's angry with Father Hesburgh for his civil rights stand; Nixon uses a couple of profanities in his anger; in addition we have the following: Da*n-2; MG-1; Crap-1
Violence: Archived footage of protests, people with blood on faces; bodies on ground; fires; smoke and other such scenes, but nothing is overly graphic or gratuitous.
Drugs: The mention of drinking bourbon; a few scenes of drinking; a smoking cigar is seen and comments about cigar smoking; unlit cigars; photo of young man with a cigarette.
Nudity: None
Other: There is civil unrest regarding the war in Viet Nam and civil rights; tension and disagreements between powerful people are examined.


Company: OCP Media
Director: Patrick Creadon
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 106 min.
Industry Rating: PG
Reviewer: Ed C.