42 Men Who Changed the World
February 18, 2002
The President of the United States.
To be one, you have to be a natural-born citizen of the United States who is over the age of thirty-five and has lived in the United States for at least fourteen years.
He is the chief executive of the United States and is mandated by the U. S. Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
He is the chief diplomat for the United States, appointing ambassadors and making treaties with other nations. He nominates Cabinet officials, Supreme Court justices and other high government officials. He is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
He is elected into office by electors in each state who make up the electoral college. The electors vote for the candidate supported by the majority of voters from their state.
(A little known fact about presidential elections is that when there are more than two presidential candidates and none of them gets a clear majority, Congress is the one who selects their choice for President from the three candidates who received the most votes!)
The President serves a 4-year term and the 22nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution limits Presidents to no more than two terms in office.
When elected, the new president takes the oath of office at noon on January 20th of the year following his election. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swears in the President with the following oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
As we celebrate Presidents this week, we should remember the great accomplishments of the men who valiantly led this nation from its post-Revolutionary War days to today. This elite class of 42 men spanning more than two centuries has made a lasting impact on our nation and the world!
GEORGE WASHINGTON: Our first President, who became an example for all future Presidents to follow. He held the nation together in the early days when America was fragile.
JOHN ADAMS: He saved the United States from an unnecessary war with France. He is known in history as the Father of the United States Navy.
THOMAS JEFFERSON: He bought the Louisiana Purchase and, thus, doubled the size of the country. He supported the notion that the government should stay in the hands of the people.
JAMES MADISON: Known as the Father of the U.S. Constitution, writing a majority of its contents. Allowed the country to go to war with England, but he made peace quickly.
JAMES MONROE: He acquired Florida from Spain. He created the Monroe Doctrine, which called for no new colonies to be started in the Americas. The U.S. still holds this doctrine today.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: Chosen by Congress to become President over Andrew Jackson (although Jackson received more electoral votes than him), his presidency was a failure. However, he is considered one of the greatest secretaries of state (under James Monroe) and congressmen (elected to office after being defeated by Jackson in the next election).
ANDREW JACKSON: He was the first President who made it his job to make new laws. He was even willing to go to war with South Carolina over the supremacy of federal law, but a compromise was worked out. He strengthened the power of the presidency.
MARTIN VAN BUREN: He rode into office on the coattails of Jackson, but was mired in one of the worst economic depressions caused by the policies of the Jackson administration. Van Buren was unfairly blamed for this.
WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON: Nicknamed “Old Tippacanoe” from his military days,
he caught a cold following the longest inauguration speech in history-one hour and forty-five minutes. The cold turned into pneumonia and he died one month into his presidency.
JOHN TYLER: He made clear that the Vice President assumes the title of President on the death of the current President. He was instrumental in making Texas a part of the Union.
JAMES K. POLK: As the first “dark horse” candidate elected to President, he negotiated a compromise with the Canadians splitting the Oregon Territory between the new countries. He also forced Mexico into a war to add California and much of the Southwest to the United States.
ZACHARY TAYLOR: Nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready,” he was probably the most underqualified man who ever became President. He threatened to personally lead an army against anyone who talked about seceding from the Union. He died suddenly just two years into his presidency.
MILLARD FILLMORE: He helped pass the Compromise of 1850, which made California a slave free state. He also opened the doors of trade with Japan.
FRANKLIN PIERCE: He negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, which forms the Southwest corner of New Mexico and all of southern Arizona. He also favored the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed each territory to decide for itself whether or not to have slavery. This opened the door to the American Civil War.
JAMES BUCHANAN: Although he did not like slavery, he supported the Dred Scott case handed down by the Supreme Court that mandated slavery in all territories not yet made into states. Many southern states began seceding from the Union in the final days of his presidency. This thrust the nation into war with itself.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A staunch opponent of slavery, he passed the Emancipation Proclamation, setting the foundation for the Thirteenth Amendment. His leadership during the most tragic days in our nation’s history helped keep the nation from falling apart. He believed that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” He was tragically shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth just days after the end of the Civil War.
ANDREW JOHNSON: He wanted, like Lincoln, to bring the southern states back into the Union as quickly and easily as possible. He was the first President to be impeached, but missed being removed from office by only one vote.
ULYSSES S. GRANT: Although he was an honest man and a hero from the Civil War, he was naive about the people he surrounded himself with. His administration was one of the most dishonest in American history.
RUTHERFORD B. HAYES: Although he did not receive the majority of the popular votes, a deal was brokered by a committee to give the Presidency to him in exchange for withdrawing federal troops from the South. This was the end of the Reconstruction Era. He opened the door to immigration, which changed the United States from an agricultural to an industrial nation. He tried to contrast the Grant administration by appointing honest men to office.
JAMES GARFIELD: Was shot by a man who he had denied a job just three months after taking office. However, his death made people demand a more honest government, with civil service laws that would keep government workers on the job. His death did more for this cause than anything he could have done as President.
CHESTER ARTHUR: Although he was not a supporter of Garfield, he decided to carry on Garfield’s work to pass a new civil service law. He helped develop a modern navy. He also changed the postal system to give better and cheaper service.
GROVER CLEVELAND: A hard worker, he made a lot of needed reforms in government and helped restore the confidence of the people in their government. He had good intentions in his two nonsuccessive terms in office, but his methods sometimes failed.
BENJAMIN HARRISON: He lost the popular vote to Cleveland, but won the electoral college. He appointed Theodore Roosevelt to continue the reform of the civil service, but Congress did not want reform. He passed the McKinley Tariff Act, which put a high tax on goods shipped to the United States from other countries. He favored a strong foreign policy and strengthened the navy.
WILLIAM MCKINLEY: He reluctantly went to war with Spain to acquire the Phillipines, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico as United States possessions. This established America as a world power. Soon after winning a second term, he was shot and later died at a fair in New York by an anti-government radical.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT: A showman President with tremendous energy, he used the powers of the office to control big business. He established national parks and more than 125 million acres of national forests. Like his predecessors, he continued to strengthen the navy. He got the Panama Canal built to allow his navy quicker access from one ocean to the other.
WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT: A reluctant candidate for President who really wanted to be a Supreme Court justice, he was prodded by Roosevelt and Mrs. Taft to run and he won. He continued the work of Roosevelt by improving civil service, advocating the conservation of natural resources and improving the Post Office system. After he was defeated for reelection, he was later appointed to the Supreme Court.
WOODROW WILSON: He reformed the banking laws and worked to improve the antitrust laws by helping the American worker and lowering tariffs. He tried to stay out of World War I, but decided to declare war against Germany after many Americans lost their lives. He called it the “war to end all wars.” He drew up his famous Fourteen Points peace plan, including the development of a League of Nations, that would settle future arguments between nations. His proposal failed, but it left an ideal for future generations to implement. He negotiated the Treaty of Versailles to end World War I.
WARREN G. HARDING: Promising a “return to normalcy” after the war, he was elected in a landslide. He called for a disarmament conference in Washington. Like Grant before, the friends he chose contributed to the most corrupt administration in American history. When he died suddenly of a heart attack two years later, the Teapot Dome scandal and others revealed the corruption that had taken place in his adminstration.
CALVIN COOLIDGE: He believed strongly in limited government and for government to stay out of business. He helped restore honesty and dignity to the presidency. A tremendous economic boom hit America as people invested in the stock market, prices went up and wages went up. He was warned to do something to slow this down, but ignored the warnings of a depression. A few months after he left office, America was plunged into the most terrible depression in its history.
HERBERT HOOVER: He was unfairly blamed for the effects of the Great Depression. He established organizations to lend government money to businesses in need and to give people jobs, but they were not enough to end the Depression.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: When he entered office in the midst of the Great Depression, he immediately took action his administration called the New Deal. He was forced into World War II after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He helped organize what became known as the United Nations. He was the first President elected to more than two terms in office.
HARRY TRUMAN: He gave the orders to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war with Japan. He fought for civil rights legislation and an increase in Social Security, continuing what was started by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. When the Cold War with Russia began, the Truman Doctrine was implemented which declared that the United States would help countries who were fighting to stay free of Communism.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: He acheived peace in the war with Korea. He tried to ease the tension between America and the Soviet Union. He broadened Social Security and the minimum wage law. He began the interstate highway system. He sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school integration.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: He was elected to office in one of the closest elections in history. he worked for equal rights for all citizens. He established the Peace Corps to help underdeveloped countries. Forced the Soviet Union to withdraw its missles from Cuba in the Cuban Missle Crisis. His brutal assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 shocked the nation.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON: He pushed many important bills through Congress, including new civil rights laws, a war on poverty, a Medicare law, pollution control laws and more that encompassed his Great Society. He tried unsuccessfully to make peace in Vietnam.
RICHARD NIXON: He ended U.S. troop involvement in Vietnam. He was instrumental in opening relations with Communist China. However, the Watergate scandal cover-up marred his presidency that ended when he resigned from office in disgrace to avoid impeachment.
GERALD FORD: He was the first man to become President without ever having run for President or Vice-President. He improved relations with China. He pardoned Nixon to help the nation move forward. He ran an open and simple administration, which helped heal the wounds of Watergate. But the economy was in trouble and he was defeated in his reelection bid.
JIMMY CARTER: He improved relations with Latin America by giving control of the Panama Canal to Panama. He worked to improve human rights throughout the world. He wanted to eliminate or limit the production of nuclear weapons. He was blamed for a bad economy, including skyrocketing gas prices during the oil crisis in the Middle East. Americans were held hostage for 444 days in Iran. He helped bring about a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Nevertheless, he remained unpopular and was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide.
RONALD REAGAN: The Great Communicator was the oldest man to become President at 69 years old. He built up U.S. military power and pushed for funds to develop “Star Wars” to counter the spread of Communism worldwide. He pushed several tax cuts through Congress that grew the country economically. The Iran-Contra Affair was investigated by Congress, but Reagan was cleared of any direct involvement. When he left office, the stock market was performing well, relations with the Cold War with the Soviet Union were beginning to “thaw” and Reagan was one of the most popular Presidents in many years.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He rode into office on the coattails of Reagan. He presided during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. His popularity soared as he led a coalition of nations in driving the Iraqi army out of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. However, the domestic problems of the savings and loan scandal, an economic recession, the rising cost of health care, his staunch support of abolishing abortion and breaking the promise he made to voters for “no new taxes” all contributed to his defeat to Bill Clinton.
BILL CLINTON: He won the presidency twice without ever getting more than half the votes due in large part to the success of independent candidate Ross Perot. He and his wife, Hillary, pushed for a national health care system, but it was defeated. He won the Nobel Peace prize for negotiating peace in the Middle East. His presidency was engulfed in scandal, though, including Whitewater, Travelgate and the Monica Lewinsky affair. He was only the second President to be impeached, but he escaped being removed from office. Nevertheless, he left office with relatively high popularity.
GEORGE W. BUSH: He defeated Al Gore in the closest election in American history. He pushed a tax cut through Congress to stimulate an economy in recession. He declared war on terrorism after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001. He sent troops to Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and to capture Al Quada leader Osama bin Laden. His sustained popularity poll numbers are the highest of any American President in history.