Friday, December 4, 2009

us president

George Washington

George Washington (February 22, 1732 [O.S. February 11, 1731][1][2][3]– December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797).[4] For his central role in the formation of the United States, he is often referred to as the father of his country.[5][6]

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, King George III asked what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he'd return to his farm; this prompted the king to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington did return to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon.[7]

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and a decade of peace with Britain began with the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington was awarded the very first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress.[8]

Washington died in 1799, and the funeral oration delivered by Henry Lee stated that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen".[9] Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Pres

John Adams

John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American politician and the second President of the United States (1797–1801), after being the first Vice President (1789–1797) for two terms. He is regarded as one of thmost influential Founding Fathers of the United States.Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution. As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to adopt the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. As a representative of Congress in Europe, he was a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and chiefly responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam.Adams' revolutionary credentials secured him two terms as George Washington's vice president and his own election as the second president of the United States. During his one term as president, he was frustrated by battles inside his own Federalist party (by a faction led by Alexander Hamilton) and the newly emergent bi-partisan disagreements with Jeffersonian Republicans. During his term he also signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts. The major accomplishment of his presidency was his peaceful resolution of the Quasi-War crisis with France in 1798.After Adams was defeated for reelection by Thomas Jefferson (at the time, Adams' vice-president), he retired to Massachusetts. He and his wife Abigail Adams founded an accomplished family line of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family. Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams, the sixthgreater recognition President of the United States. His achievements have received in modern times, though his contributions were not initially as celebrated as those of other Founders.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)[2] was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. Major events during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806).

As a political philosopher, Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders in Britain and France. He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and favored states' rights and a strictly limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state[3] and was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years. Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793), and second Vice President (1797–1801).

A polymath, Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."[4] To date, Jefferson is the only president to serve two full terms in office without vetoing a single bill of Congress. Jefferson has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.

James Madison

James Madison[2] (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the "Father of the Constitution," he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first President to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights".[3] As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.[4][5][6][7]

As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party)[8] in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He secretly co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.

As Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation's size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo Act of 1807. As president, he led the nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second National Bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.

James Monroe

James Monroe (April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825). His administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida (1819); the Missouri Compromise (1820), in which Missouri was declared a slave state; the admission of Maine in 1820 as a free state; and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), declaring U.S. opposition to European interference in the Americas, as well as breaking all ties with France remaining from the War of 1812.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was the sixth President of the United States from March 4, 1825 to March 4, 1829. He was also an American diplomat and served in both the Senate and House of Representatives. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties.

Adams was the son of the second President John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams, the name "Quincy" having come from Abigail's maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts is also named.[1][pn 1] As a diplomat, he was involved in many international negotiations, and helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine as Secretary of State. As president he proposed a program of modernization and educational advancement, but was stymied by Congress. Adams lost his 1828 bid for re-election to Andrew Jackson.

Adams was elected a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts after leaving office, the only president ever to do so, serving for the last 17 years of his life. In the House he became a leading opponent of the Slave Power and argued that if a civil war ever broke out the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers, which Abraham Lincoln partially did during the American Civil War in the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. A polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s, his political ambition combined with widening political participation, shaping the modern Democratic Party.[1]

His legacy is now seen as mixed, as a protector of popular democracy and individual liberty, checkered by his support for Indian removal and slavery.[2][3] Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed “Old Hickory." As he based his career in developing Tennessee, Jackson was the first president primarily associated with the American frontier.

Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren (pronounced /væn ˈbjʊərɨn/ or /væn ˈbjɜrɨn/; December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) was the eighth President of the United States from 1837 to 1841. Before his presidency, he served as the eighth Vice President (1833–1837) and the 10th Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson. He was a key organizer of the Democratic Party, a dominant figure in the Second Party System, and the first president who was not of British (i.e. English, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish) descent—his ancestry was Dutch. He was the first president to be born an American citizen[2] (his predecessors were born British subjects before the American Revolution), and is also the only president not to have spoken English as a first language, having grown up speaking Dutch.[3] Moreover, he was the first president from New York.

Van Buren was the third president to serve only one term, after John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. He also was one of the central figures in developing modern political organizations. As Andrew Jackson's Secretary of State and then Vice President, he was a key figure in building the organizational structure for Jacksonian democracy, particularly in New York State. However, as a president, his administration was largely characterized by the economic hardship of his time, the Panic of 1837. Between the bloodless Aroostook War and the Caroline Affair, relations with Britain and its colonies in Canada also proved to be strained. Whether these were directly his fault, Van Buren was voted out of office after four years, with a close popular vote but a rout in the electoral vote. In 1848, he ran for president on a third-party ticket, the Free Soil Party.

Martin Van Buren is one of only two people, the other being Thomas Jefferson, to serve as Secretary of State, Vice President and President.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was the ninth President of the United States, an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. The oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the United States Declaration of Independence, Harrison died on his thirty-second day in office[1]—the shortest tenure in United States presidential history. His death sparked a brief constitutional crisis, but that crisis ultimately resolved many questions about presidential succession left unanswered by the Constitution until passage of the 25th Amendment.

Before election as president, Harrison served as the first territorial congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, governor of the Indiana Territory and later as a U.S. representative and senator from Ohio. He originally gained national fame for leading U.S. forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Tippecanoe" (or "Old Tippecanoe"). As a general in the subsequent War of 1812, his most notable contribution was a victory at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, which brought an end to hostilities in his region.

After the war, Harrison moved to Ohio, where he was elected to the United States Congress, and in 1824 he became a member of the Senate. There he served a truncated term before being appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary to Colombia in May 1828. In Colombia, he lectured Simon Bolívar on the finer points of democracy before returning to his farm in Ohio, where he lived in relative retirement until he was nominated for the presidency in 1836. Defeated, he retired again to his farm before being elected president in 1840.

John Tyler

John Tyler, Jr. (March 29, 1790 – January 18, 1862) was the tenth President of the United States (1841–1845) and the first to succeed to the office following the death of a predecessor.

A longtime Democratic-Republican, Tyler was nonetheless elected Vice President on the Whig ticket. Upon the death of President William Henry Harrison on April 4, 1841, only a month after his inauguration, the nation was briefly in a state of confusion regarding the process of succession. Ultimately the situation was settled with Tyler becoming President both in name and in fact. Tyler took the oath of office on April 6, 1841, setting a precedent that would govern future successions and eventually be codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment. At 51 years old, he was the youngest U.S. president to take office to that point (whereas Harrison had been the oldest man to take office as president).

Arguably the most famous and significant achievement of Tyler's administration was the annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845. Tyler was the first president born after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, the only president to have held the office of President pro tempore of the Senate, and the only former president elected to office in the government of the Confederacy during the Civil War (though he died before he assumed said office).

James K. Polk

James Knox Polk (pronounced /ˈpoʊk/ POKE) (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the 11th President of the United States (1845–1849). Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.[1] He later lived in and represented the state of Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as Speaker of the House (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841) before becoming president.

A firm supporter of Andrew Jackson, Polk was the last strong pre-Civil War president. Polk is noted for his foreign policy successes. He threatened war with Britain then backed away and split the ownership of the Northwest with Britain. He is more famous for leading the nation into the Mexican–American War, in which the US was victorious. He lowered the tariff and established a treasury system that lasted until 1913. A little-known candidate in 1844, he was the first president to retire after a single term without seeking reelection. He died of cholera three months after his term ended.

As a Democrat committed to geographic expansion (or Manifest Destiny), he overrode Whig objections and achieved the second-largest expansion of the nation's territory. Polk secured the Oregon Territory (including Washington, Oregon and Idaho), amounting to about 285,000 square miles (738,000 km²). Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican–American War in 1846, the US purchased 525,000 square miles (1,360,000 km²) of territory in the Southwest and California.

The expansion reopened a furious national debate over allowing slavery in the new territories. The controversy was inadequately arbitrated by the Compromise of 1850, and finally found its ultimate resolution on the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War. Polk signed the Walker Tariff that brought an era of nearly free trade to the country until 1861. He oversaw the opening of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the first postage stamps in the United States, introduced by his Postmaster General Cave Johnson. He was the first US President to be photographed frequently while in office. Scholars have ranked him eighth to twelfth on the list of greatest presidents for his ability to set an agenda and achieve all of it.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was an American military leader and the 12th President of the United States.

Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor had a 40-year military career in the U.S. Army, serving in the War of 1812, Black Hawk War, and Second Seminole War before achieving fame leading U.S. troops to victory at several critical battles of the Mexican–American War. A Southern slaveholder who opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, he was uninterested in politics but was recruited by the Whig Party as their nominee in the 1848 presidential election.

In the election, Taylor defeated the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass, and became the first U.S. president never to have held any previous elected office. Taylor was also the last southerner to be elected president until Woodrow Wilson. As president, Taylor urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, setting the stage for the Compromise of 1850.

Taylor died of acute gastroenteritis just 16 months into his term. There were also rumors that Taylor was poisoned with arsenic but such claims have gone unproven. He was succeeded by the then Vice President Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800 – March 8, 1874) was the 13th President of the United States, serving from 1850 until 1853 and the last member of the Whig Party to hold that office. He was the second Vice President to assume the presidency upon the death of a sitting president, succeeding Zachary Taylor, who died of what is thought to be acute gastroenteritis. Fillmore was never elected president; after serving out Taylor's term, he failed to gain the nomination of the Whigs for president in the 1852 presidential election, and, four years later, in the 1856 presidential election, he again failed to win election as the Know Nothing Party and Whig candidate.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857, an American politician and lawyer. To date, he is the only President from New Hampshire. He was also the first President to be born in the 19th century.

Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" (a Northerner with Southern sympathies) who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Later, Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general. His private law practice in his home state, New Hampshire, was so successful that he was offered several important positions, which he turned down. Later, he was nominated for president as a dark horse candidate on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. In the presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William R. King won by a landslide in the Electoral College, defeating the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham by a 50% to 44% margin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote. According to historian David Potter, Pierce was sometimes referred to as "Baby" Pierce, apparently referring to both his youthful appearance and his being the youngest president to take office to that point (although he was, in reality, only a year younger than James K. Polk when he took office).

His inoffensive personality caused him to make many friends, but he suffered tragedy in his personal life and as president subsequently made decisions which were widely criticized and divisive in their effects, thus giving him the reputation as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Pierce's popularity in the North declined sharply after he came out in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise and reopening the question of the expansion of slavery in the West. Pierce's credibility was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto. Historian David Potter concludes that the Ostend Manifesto and the Kansas-Nebraska Act were "the two great calamities of the Franklin Pierce administration.... Both brought down an avalanche of public criticism." More important says Potter, they permanently discredited Manifest Destiny and "popular sovereignty" as a political doctrine and slogan of that time that purported to delegate the decision whether slavery should be allowed in a particular territory to the eligible white male voters therein, instead of being determined by a national scheme such as that embodied in the Missouri Compromise and similar agreements between the free and slave interests.

Abandoned by his party, Pierce was not renominated to run in the 1856 presidential election and was replaced by James Buchanan as the Democratic candidate. After losing the Democratic nomination, Pierce continued his lifelong struggle with alcoholism as his marriage to Jane Means Appleton Pierce fell apart. His reputation was destroyed during the American Civil War when he declared support for the Confederacy, and personal correspondence between Pierce and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was leaked to the press. He died in 1869 from cirrhosis.

Philip B. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt reflected the views of many historians when they wrote in The American President that Pierce was "a good man who didn't understand his own shortcomings. He was genuinely religious, loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could adapt to her ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in New Hampshire, polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome. However, he has been criticized as timid and unable to cope with a changing America."

James Buchanan

James Buchanan, Jr. (April 23, 1791 – June 1, 1868) was the 15th President of the United States from 1857–1861 and the last to be born in the 18th century. To date he is the only President from the state of Pennsylvania and the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor.

A popular and experienced politician prior to his presidency, Buchanan represented Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives and later the Senate, and served as Secretary of State under President James K. Polk. After turning down an offer for an appointment to the Supreme Court, he served as Minister to the United Kingdom under President Franklin Pierce, in which capacity he helped draft the inflammatory Ostend Manifesto, which suggested the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused to sell Cuba. The Ostend Manifesto was never acted upon and greatly damaged the Pierce administration.

Despite unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic presidential nomination several times, Buchanan's nomination in the election of 1856 was a compromise between the two sides of the slavery issue and occurred while he was away on business. His subsequent election was largely due to the even more divided state of the opposition. As President he was a "doughface", a Northerner with Southern sympathies who battled with Stephen A. Douglas for the control of the Democratic Party. Buchanan's efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South alienated both sides, and as the Southern states declared their secession in the prologue to the American Civil War, Buchanan's opinion was that secession was illegal, but that going to war to stop it was also illegal; hence, he remained inactive. By the time he left office, popular opinion had turned against him, and the Democratic Party had split in two. His handling of the crisis preceding the Civil War has led to his consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst Presidents in American history.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States,[1][2] Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the secessionist Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Six days after the large-scale surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated.

Lincoln closely supervised the victorious war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including Ulysses S. Grant. Historians have concluded that he handled the factions of the Republican Party well, bringing leaders of each faction into his cabinet and forcing them to cooperate. Lincoln successfully defused the Trent affair, a war scare with Britain late in 1861. Under his leadership, the Union took control of the border slave states at the start of the war. Additionally, he managed his own reelection in the 1864 presidential election.

Copperheads and other opponents of the war criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue. Conversely, the Radical Republicans, an abolitionist faction of the Republican Party, criticized him for moving too slowly in abolishing slavery. Even with these opponents, Lincoln successfully rallied public opinion through his rhetoric and speeches; his Gettysburg Address (1863) became an iconic symbol of the nation's duty. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a policy of generous reconciliation. Lincoln has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of all U.S. Presidents.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875) was the 17th President of the United States (1865–1869). Following the assassination of President Lincoln, Johnson presided over the immediate aftermath of the Civil war.

At the time of the secession of the Southern states, Johnson was a U.S. Senator from Greeneville in East Tennessee. As a Unionist, he was the only southern senator not to quit his post upon secession. He became the most prominent War Democrat from the South and supported the military policies of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War of 1861–1865. In 1862, Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of occupied Tennessee, where he proved to be energetic and effective in fighting the rebellion and beginning transition to Reconstruction.[3]

Johnson was nominated for the Vice President position in 1864 on the National Union Party ticket. He and Lincoln were elected in November 1864. Johnson succeeded to the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination on April 15, 1865.

As president, he took charge of Presidential Reconstruction – the first phase of Reconstruction – which lasted until the Radical Republicans gained control of Congress in the 1866 elections. His conciliatory policies towards the South, his hurry to reincorporate the former Confederate states back into the union, and his vetoes of civil rights bills embroiled him in a bitter dispute with some Republicans.[4] The Radicals in the House of Representatives impeached him in 1868, charging him with violating the Tenure of Office Act, a law enacted by Congress in March 1867 over Johnson's veto, but he was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate.

While Johnson is the most recent president to represent a party other than the Republican or Democratic parties, having represented both the Democrats and the National Union Party, his party status was ambiguous during his presidency. As president, he did not identify with the two main parties—though he did try for the Democratic nomination in 1868—and so he while President he attempted to build a party of loyalists under the National Union label. Asked in 1868 why he did not become a Democrat, he said, "It is true I am asked why don't I join the Democratic Party. Why don't they join me ... if I have administered the office of president so well?" His failure to make the National Union brand an actual party made Johnson effectively an independent during his presidency, though he was supported by Democrats and later rejoined the party as a Democratic Senator from Tennesee from 1875 till his death. For these reasons he is usually counted as a Democrat when identifying presidents by their political parties.[5]

Johnson was the first U.S. president to succeed to the presidency upon the assassination of his predecessor as well as the first U.S. President to be impeached. He is commonly ranked by historians as being among the worst U.S. presidents.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant[2]) (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was general-in-chief of the Union Army from 1864 to 1869 during the American Civil War and the 18th President of the United States from 1869 to 1877.

The son of an Appalachian Ohio tanner, Grant entered the United States Military Academy at age 17. In 1846, three years after graduating, Grant served as a lieutenant in the Mexican–American War under Winfield Scott and future president Zachary Taylor. After the Mexican-American War concluded in 1848, Grant remained in the Army, but abruptly resigned in 1854. After struggling through the succeeding years as a real estate agent, a laborer, and a county engineer, Grant decided to join the Northern effort in the Civil War.

Appointed brigadier general of volunteers in 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln, Grant claimed the first major Union victories of the war in 1862, capturing Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. He was surprised by a Confederate attack at the Battle of Shiloh; although he emerged victorious, the severe casualties prompted a public outcry. Subsequently, however, Grant's 1863 victory at Vicksburg, following a long campaign with many initial setbacks, and his rescue of the besieged Union army at Chattanooga, established his reputation as Lincoln's most aggressive and successful general. Named lieutenant general and general-in-chief of the Army in 1864, Grant implemented a coordinated strategy of simultaneous attacks aimed at destroying the South's armies and its economy's ability to sustain its forces. In 1865, after mounting a successful war of attrition against his Confederate opponents, he accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.

Popular due to the Union victory in the war, Grant was elected President of the United States as a Republican in 1868 and re-elected in 1872, the first President to serve two full terms since Andrew Jackson 40 years before. As President, Grant led Reconstruction by signing and enforcing Congressional civil rights legislation. Grant built a powerful, patronage-based Republican Party in the South, straining relations between the North and former Confederates. His administration was marred by scandal, sometimes the product of nepotism; the neologism Grantism was coined to describe political corruption.

Grant left office in 1877 and embarked upon a two-year world tour. Unsuccessful in winning the nomination for a third term in 1880, left destitute by a fraudulent investor, and near the brink of death, Grant wrote his Memoirs, which were enormously successful among veterans, the public, and critics. However, in 1884, Grant learned that he was suffering from terminal throat cancer and, two days after completing his writing, he died at the age of 63. Presidential historians typically rank Grant in the lowest quartile of U.S. presidents for his tolerance of corruption, but in recent years his reputation has improved among some scholars impressed by his support for civil rights for African Americans.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes (October 4, 1822 – January 17, 1893) was an American politician, lawyer, military leader and the 19th President of the United States (1877–1881). Hayes was elected President by one electoral vote after the highly disputed election of 1876. Losing the popular vote to his opponent, Samuel Tilden, Hayes was the only president whose election was decided by a congressional commission.

James A. Garfield

James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831 – September 19, 1881) was the 20th President of the United States. His death, two months after being shot and six months after his inauguration, made his tenure, at 199 days, the second shortest (after William Henry Harrison) in United States history.

Before his election as president, Garfield served as a major general in the United States Army and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a member of the Electoral Commission of 1876. Garfield was the second U.S. President to be assassinated; Abraham Lincoln was the first. President Garfield, a Republican, had been in office a scant four months when he was shot and fatally wounded on July 2, 1881. He lived until September 19, having served for six months and fifteen days. To date, Garfield is the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to have been elected President.

Chester A. Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) was an American politician who served as the 21st President of the United States. Arthur was a member of the Republican Party and worked as a lawyer before becoming the 20th Vice President under James Garfield. While Garfield was mortally wounded by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, he did not die until September 19, at which time Arthur was sworn in as president, serving until March 4, 1885.

Before entering elected politics, Arthur was a member of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party and a political protégé of Roscoe Conkling, rising to Collector of the Port of New York, a position to which he was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant. He was then removed by the succeeding president, Rutherford B. Hayes, in an effort to reform the patronage system in New York.

To the chagrin of the Stalwarts, the onetime Collector of the Port of New York became, as President, a champion of civil service reform. He avoided old political cronies and eventually alienated his old mentor Conkling. Public pressure, heightened by the assassination of Garfield, forced an unwieldy Congress to heed the President. Arthur's primary achievement was the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. The passage of this legislation earned Arthur the moniker "The Father of Civil Service" and a favorable reputation among historians.

Publisher Alexander K. McClure wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired… more generally respected." Author Mark Twain, deeply cynical about politicians, conceded, "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."

Grover Cleveland

Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897) and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents. He was the winner of the popular vote for president three times—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination that lasted from 1860 to 1912. Cleveland's admirers praise him for his honesty, independence, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism.[1] As a leader of the Bourbon Democrats, he opposed imperialism, taxes, subsidies and inflationary policies. As a reformer he also worked against corruption, patronage, and bossism.

Some of Cleveland's actions caused controversy within his own party. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 in order to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions, and his support of the gold standard and opposition to free silver alienated the agrarian wing of the Democrats.[2] Furthermore, critics complained that he had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters—depressions and strikes—in his second term.[2] Even so, his reputation for honesty and good character survived the troubles of his second term. Biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "in Grover Cleveland the greatness lies in typical rather than unusual qualities. He had no endowments that thousands of men do not have. He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence, and common sense. But he possessed them to a degree other men do not.

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 – March 13, 1901) was the 23rd President of the United States, serving one term from 1889 to 1893. Harrison was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at the age of 21, where he became a prominent state politician. During the American Civil War Harrison served as a Brigadier General in the XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. After the war he unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Indiana, but was later appointed to the U.S. Senate from that state.

Harrison, a Republican, was elected to the presidency in 1888, defeating the Democratic incumbent, Grover Cleveland. He is the only president from the state of Indiana. His presidential administration is most remembered for its economic legislation, including the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and for annual federal spending that reached one billion dollars for the first time. Democrats attacked the "Billion Dollar Congress", and used the issue, along with the growing unpopularity of the high tariff, to defeat the Republicans, both in the 1890 mid-term elections and in Harrison's bid for reelection in 1892. He also saw the admittance of six states into the Union.

After failing to win reelection he returned to private life at his home in Indianapolis where he remarried, wrote a book, and later represented the Republic of Venezuela in an international case against the United Kingdom. In 1900 he traveled to Europe as part of the case and, after a brief stay, returned to Indianapolis where he died the following year from complications arising from influenza.

William McKinley

William McKinley Jr. (January 29, 1843 – September 14, 1901) was the 25th President of the United States, and the last veteran of the American Civil War to be elected to the office.

By the 1880s, McKinley was a national Republican leader; his signature issue was high tariffs on imports as a formula for prosperity, as typified by his McKinley Tariff of 1890. As the Republican candidate in the 1896 presidential election, he upheld the gold standard, and promoted pluralism among ethnic groups. His campaign, designed by Mark Hanna, introduced new advertising-style campaign techniques that revolutionized campaign practices and beat back the crusading of his arch-rival, William Jennings Bryan. The 1896 election is often considered a realigning election that marked the beginning of the Progressive Era.

McKinley presided over a return to prosperity after the Panic of 1893. He launched the Spanish-American War, widely popular due to the efforts of the yellow press, using the pretext of Spanish atrocities in Cuba. Later he annexed the former Spanish territories of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and set up a protectorate over Cuba. He also presided over the annexation of the formerly independent Kingdom of Hawaii. McKinley was reelected in the 1900 presidential election after another intense campaign against Bryan, this one focused on foreign policy. After McKinley's assassination in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, an American anarchist of Polish descent, he was succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919;[2] pronounced /ˈroʊzəvɛlt/[3])[4] was the 26th President of the United States. He is well remembered for his energetic persona, his range of interests and achievements, his leadership of the Progressive Movement, his model of masculinity, and his "cowboy" image. He was a leader of the Republican Party and founder of the short-lived Bull Moose Party of 1912. Before becoming the 26th President (1901–1909) he held offices at the municipal, state, and federal level of government. Roosevelt's achievements as a naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier are as much a part of his fame as any office he held as a politician.

Born to a wealthy family, Roosevelt was an unhealthy child suffering from asthma who stayed at home studying natural history. In response to his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. He attended Harvard, where he boxed and developed an interest in naval affairs. A year out of Harvard, in 1881 he ran for a seat in the state legislature. His first historical book, The Naval War of 1812, published in 1882, established his reputation as a serious historian. After a few years of living in the Badlands, Roosevelt returned to New York City, where he gained fame for fighting police corruption. He was effectively running the US Department of the Navy when the Spanish American War broke out; he resigned and led a small regiment in Cuba known as the Rough Riders, earning himself the Medal of Honor. After the war, he returned to New York and was elected Governor; two years later he was nominated for and elected Vice President of the United States.

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt became president at the age of 42, taking office at the youngest age of any U.S. President in history.[5] Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt coined the phrase "Square Deal" to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair shake under his policies. As an outdoorsman, he promoted the conservation movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt's policies were characterized by his comment, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; he sent out the Great White Fleet to display American power, and he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Roosevelt declined to run for re-election in 1908. After leaving office, he embarked on a safari to Africa and a trip to Europe. On his return to the US, a rift developed between Roosevelt and his anointed[6][7] successor as President, William Howard Taft. Roosevelt attempted in 1912 to wrest the Republican nomination from Taft, and when he failed, he launched the Bull Moose Party. In the election, Roosevelt became the only third party candidate to come in second place, beating Taft but losing to Woodrow Wilson. After the election, Roosevelt embarked on a major expedition to South America; the river on which he traveled now bears his name. He contracted malaria on the trip, which damaged his health, and he died a few years later, at the age of 60. Roosevelt has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857 – March 8, 1930) was the 27th President of the United States and later the 10th Chief Justice of the United States.

Born in 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the powerful Taft family, Taft graduated from Yale College Phi Beta Kappa in 1878,[1] and from Cincinnati Law School in 1880. Then he worked in a number of local legal positions until being appointed an Ohio Superior Court judge in 1887. In 1890 Taft was appointed Solicitor General of the United States and in 1891 a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft Governor-General of the Philippines. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt, then a political ally of Taft, appointed Taft Secretary of War to groom Taft as his successor to the presidency.

Riding a wave of popular support of President (and fellow Republican) Theodore Roosevelt, Taft won an easy victory in his 1908 bid for the presidency.

In his first and only term, President Taft's domestic agenda emphasized trust-busting, civil service reform, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, improving the performance of the postal service, and passage of the Sixteenth Amendment. Abroad, Taft sought to further the economic development of undeveloped nations in Latin America and Asia through the method he termed "Dollar Diplomacy." However, Taft often alienated his own key constituencies, and was overwhelmingly defeated in his bid for a second term in the presidential election of 1912.

After leaving office, Taft spent his time in academia, arbitration, and the search for world peace through his self-founded League to Enforce Peace. In 1921, after the First World War, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the United States. Taft served in this capacity until his death in 1930.

Weighing over 300 pounds on average, Taft was physically the heaviest American president ever elected.

Woodrow Wilson

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924)[1] was the 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912.

In his first term, Wilson persuaded a Democratic Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Act,[2] Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and America's first-ever federal progressive income tax in the Revenue Act of 1913. Wilson brought many white Southerners into his administration, and tolerated their expansion of segregation in many federal agencies.[3][4]

Narrowly re-elected in 1916, Wilson's second term centered on World War I. He based his re-election campaign around the slogan "he kept us out of the war," but U.S. neutrality was challenged in early 1917 when the German government proposed to Mexico in the Zimmermann Telegram a military alliance in a war against the U.S. (promising the return of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas), and began unrestricted submarine warfare. Wilson in April 1917 asked Congress to declare war.

He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the Army. On the home front, he began the United States' first draft since the US civil war in 1917, raised billions in war funding through Liberty Bonds, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, enacted the first federal drug prohibition, and suppressed anti-war movements. National women's suffrage was also achieved under Wilson's presidency.

In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1919, during the bitter fight with the Republican-controlled Senate over the U.S. joining the League of Nations, Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke. He refused to compromise, effectively destroying any chance for ratification. The League of Nations was established anyway, but the United States never joined. Wilson's idealistic internationalism, now referred to as "Wilsonianism", which calls for the United States to enter the world arena to fight for democracy, has been a contentious position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for "idealists" to emulate and "realists" to reject ever since.

Warren G. Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th President of the United States, serving from 1921 until his death from a heart attack or stroke in 1923. A Republican from Ohio, Harding was an influential newspaper publisher. He served in the Ohio Senate (1899–1903) and later as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903–1905) and as a U.S. Senator (1915–1921).

His conservative stance on issues such as taxes, affable manner, and campaign manager Harry Daugherty's 'make no enemies' strategy enabled Harding to become the compromise choice at the 1920 Republican National Convention. During his presidential campaign, in the aftermath of World War I, he promised a return to "normalcy". In the 1920 election, he and his running-mate, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Democrat and fellow Ohioan James M. Cox, in what was then the largest presidential popular vote landslide in American history since the popular vote tally began to be recorded in 1824: 60.36% to 34.19%.

Harding headed a cabinet of notable men such as Charles Evans Hughes, Andrew Mellon, future president Herbert Hoover and Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, who was jailed for his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal. In foreign affairs, Harding signed peace treaties that built on the Treaty of Versailles (which formally ended World War I). He also led the way to world Naval disarmament at the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–22.

Calvin Coolidge

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929). A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in 1923. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small-government conservative.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable popularity.[2] As a Coolidge biographer put it, "he embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength."[3] Many later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire government.[4] His reputation underwent a renaissance during the Ronald Reagan Administration,[5] but the ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his reduction of the size of government and those who believe the federal government should be more involved in regulating and controlling the economy.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). Hoover was a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted government intervention under the rubric "economic modernization". In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no previous elected office experience. To date, Hoover is the last cabinet secretary to be directly elected President of the United States, as well as one of only two Presidents (along with William Howard Taft) to have been elected President without electoral experience or high military rank. The nation was prosperous and optimistic at the time, leading to a landslide victory for Hoover over Democrat Al Smith.

Hoover, a trained engineer, deeply believed in the Efficiency Movement, which held that government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the following Great Depression with volunteer efforts, none of which produced economic recovery during his term. The consensus among historians is that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by failure to end the downward economic spiral, compounded by popular opposition to prohibition. Other electoral liabilities were Hoover's lack of charisma in relating to voters, and his poor skills in working with politicians. As a result of these factors, Hoover is typically ranked very poorly among former U.S. presidents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), the 32nd President of the United States, was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war. The only American president elected to more than two terms, he was often referred to by his initials, FDR. Roosevelt won his first of four presidential elections in 1932, while the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression. FDR's combination of optimism and economic activism is often credited with keeping the country's economic crisis from developing into a political crisis. He led the United States through most of World War II, and died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage, shortly before the war ended.

Roosevelt named his approach to the economic situation the New Deal; it consisted of legislation pushed through Congress as well as executive orders. Executive orders included the bank holiday declared when he first came to office; legislation created new government agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration and the National Recovery Administration, with the intent of creating new jobs for the unemployed. Other legislation provided direct assistance to individuals, such as the Social Security Act.

As World War II began in 1939, with Japanese occupation of countries on the western Pacific rim and the rise of Hitler in Germany, FDR kept the US on an ostensibly neutral course. Once war broke out in Europe, however, Roosevelt provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany, with Great Britain the recipient of the most assistance. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt immediately asked for and received a declaration of war against Japan. Germany subsequently declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The nearly total mobilization of the US economy to support the war effort caused a rapid economic recovery.

Roosevelt dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterwards. His presidency created a realignment that dominated American politics until the election of Richard Nixon in 1968.[1][2] FDR's coalition melded together such disparate elements as Southern whites and African Americans in the cities of the North. Roosevelt's political impact also resonated on the world stage long after his death, with the United Nations and Bretton Woods as examples of his administration's wide ranging impact. Roosevelt is rated by historians as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953). As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice-president and the 34th Vice President of the United States, he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his fourth term.

During World War I Truman served as an artillery officer, making him the only president to have seen combat in World War I (his successor Eisenhower spent the war training tank crews in Pennsylvania). After the war he became part of the political machine of Tom Pendergast and was elected a county commissioner in Missouri and eventually a United States senator. After he gained national prominence as head of the wartime Truman Committee, Truman replaced vice president Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt's running mate in 1944.

Truman faced challenge after challenge in domestic affairs. The disorderly postwar reconversion of the economy of the United States was marked by severe shortages, numerous strikes, and the passage of the Taft–Hartley Act over his veto. He confounded all predictions to win re-election in 1948, helped by his famous Whistle Stop Tour of rural America. After his re-election he was able to pass only one of the proposals in his Fair Deal program. He used executive orders to begin desegregation of the U.S. armed forces and to create loyalty checks which dismissed thousands of communist supporters from office, even though he strongly opposed mandatory loyalty oaths for governmental employees, a stance that led to charges that his administration was soft on communism. Truman's presidency was also eventful in foreign affairs, with the end of World War II and his decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan, the founding of the United Nations, the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the Truman Doctrine to contain communism, the beginning of the Cold War, the Berlin Airlift, the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Korean War. Corruption in Truman's administration reached the cabinet and senior White House staff. Republicans made corruption a central issue in the 1952 campaign.

Truman, whose demeanor was very different from that of the patrician Roosevelt, was a folksy, unassuming president. He popularized such phrases as "The buck stops here" and "If you can't stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen."[1] He overcame the low expectations of many political observers who compared him unfavorably with his highly regarded predecessor. At different points in his presidency, Truman earned both the lowest public approval ratings that had ever been recorded, and the highest approval ratings to be recorded until 1991.[2][3][4] Despite negative public opinion during his term in office, popular and scholarly assessments of his presidency became more positive after his retirement from politics and the publication of his memoirs. Truman's legendary upset victory in 1948 over Thomas E. Dewey is routinely invoked by underdog presidential candidates. Most American historians consider Truman one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was a five-star general in the United States Army and the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. During the Second World War, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.[1]

As President, he oversaw the cease-fire of the Korean War, maintained pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, made nuclear weapons a higher defense priority, launched the Space Race, enlarged the Social Security program, and began the Interstate Highway System. He was the last World War I veteran to serve as U.S. president, and the last president born in the 19th century. Eisenhower ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating. He was also the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd amendment.

John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

After Kennedy's military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, his aspirations turned political. With the encouragement and grooming of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Kennedy represented Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated then Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. presidential election, one of the closest in American history. He was the second-youngest President (after Theodore Roosevelt), the first President born in the 20th century, and the youngest elected to the office, at the age of 43.[1][2] Kennedy is the first and only Catholic president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize.[3] Events during his administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early events of the Vietnam War.

Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the crime but was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby before he could be put on trial. The FBI, the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald was the assassin, with the HSCA allowing for the probability of conspiracy based on disputed acoustic evidence. The event proved to be an important moment in U.S. history because of its impact on the nation and the ensuing political repercussions. Today, Kennedy continues to rank highly in public opinion ratings of former U.S. presidents.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, served as the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969 after his service as the Vice President of the United States from 1961 to 1963. He served in all four federal elected offices of the United States: Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President.

Johnson, a Democrat, succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right, winning by a large margin in the 1964 Presidential election. Johnson was greatly supported by the Democratic Party and, as President, was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, Public Broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his attempt to help the poor in his "War on Poverty." Simultaneously, he greatly escalated direct American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Johnson served as a United States Representative from Texas, from 1937–1949 and as United States Senator (as his grandfather[1] foretold when Johnson was just an infant) from 1949–1961, including six years as United States Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. After campaigning unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1960, Johnson was asked by John F. Kennedy to be his running-mate for the 1960 presidential election. Johnson's popularity as President steadily declined after the 1966 Congressional elections, and his re-election bid in the 1968 United States presidential election collapsed as a result of turmoil within the Democratic Party related to opposition to the Vietnam War. He withdrew from the race to concentrate on peacemaking.

Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment," his arm twisting of powerful politicians in order to advance legislation. He was a legendary "hands-on" manager and the last President to serve out his term without ever hiring a White House Chief of Staff or "gatekeeper" (a position invented by Kennedy's predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower).

Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War ruined much of his credibility as President. Johnson was wary of potential political attacks from the right for losing a portion of the world to communism. Johnson believed that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, his presidency would be considered soft on communism, at the same time undermining his grand domestic agenda. Johnson began bombing North Vietnam in 1965 and it continued for the next 7 years through the Nixon Administration. Over time, Johnson escalated the number of troops and active military involvement in Vietnam. Soldier casualties were mounting and soon chants were heard, "Hey, Hey LBJ, How many boys did you kill today?" By the end of his presidency, Johnson turned into a recluse, rarely leaving the White House.[2]

Johnson died after suffering his third heart attack, on January 22, 1973. He was 64 years old.

Richard Nixon

Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States from 1969–1974 and the only President to resign the office. He was also the 36th Vice President of the United States (1953–1961), and the first born in the 20th century.

Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. After completing undergraduate work at Whittier College, he graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1937 and returned to California to practice law in La Habra. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the United States Navy, serving in the Pacific theater, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during World War II. He was elected in 1946 as a Republican to the House of Representatives representing California's 12th Congressional district, and in 1950 to the United States Senate. He was selected to be the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party nominee, in the 1952 Presidential election, becoming one of the youngest Vice Presidents in history. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of California in 1962; following these losses, Nixon announced his withdrawal from the political scene. In 1968, however, he ran again for president of the United States and was elected.

The most immediate task facing President Nixon was a resolution of the Vietnam War. He initially escalated the conflict, overseeing incursions into neighboring countries, though American military personnel were gradually withdrawn and he successfully negotiated a ceasefire with North Vietnam in 1973, effectively ending American involvement in the war. His foreign policy initiatives were largely successful: his groundbreaking visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. On the domestic front, he implemented new economic policies which called for wage and price control and the abolition of the gold standard. He was reelected by a landslide in 1972. In his second term, the nation was afflicted with economic difficulties. In the face of likely impeachment for his role in the Watergate scandal,[1] Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. He was later pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, for any federal crimes he may have committed while in office.

In his retirement, Nixon became a prolific author and undertook many foreign trips. His work as an elder statesman helped to rehabilitate his public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.; July 14, 1913 – December 26, 2006) was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974. As the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, when he became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, he also became the only President of the United States who was elected neither President nor Vice-President.

Before ascending to the vice-presidency, Ford served nearly 25 years as Representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader.

As President, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, marking a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam nine months into his presidency, US involvement in Vietnam essentially ended. Domestically, Ford presided over what was then the worst economy since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure.[2] One of his more controversial acts was to grant a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. During Ford’s incumbency, foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the increased role Congress began to play, and by the corresponding curb on the powers of the President.[3] In 1976, Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. After experiencing health problems and being admitted to the hospital four times in 2006, Ford died in his home on December 26, 2006. He lived to an older age than any other U.S. president, dying at the age of 93 years and 165 days.

Jimmy Carter

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office. Prior to becoming president, Carter served two terms in the Georgia Senate followed by the governorship of the state of Georgia, from 1971 to 1975,[2] and was a peanut farmer and naval officer.

As president, Carter created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties and the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II). Carter sought to put a stronger emphasis on human rights; he negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. His return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama was seen as a major concession of US influence in Latin America, and Carter came under heavy criticism for it. His term came during a period of persistent stagflation in a number of countries, including the United States, which significantly damaged his popularity. The final year of his presidential tenure was marked by several major crises, including the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Iran and holding of hostages by Iranian students, an unsuccessful rescue attempt of the hostages, serious fuel shortages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By 1980, Carter's disapproval ratings were significantly higher than his approval, and he was challenged by Ted Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1980 election. Carter defeated Kennedy for the nomination, but lost the election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

After leaving office, Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center in 1982,[3] a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that works to advance human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. Carter is a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project,[4] and also remains particularly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911– June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975).

Born in Tampico, Illinois, Reagan moved to Los Angeles, California in the 1930s. He began a career as an actor, first in films and later television, appearing in 52 movie productions and gaining enough success to become a household name. Though often described as a B film actor, he starred in both Knute Rockne, All American and Kings Row. Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and later spokesman for General Electric (GE); his start in politics occurred during his work for GE. Originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.

As president, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics," advocated reduced business regulation, controlling inflation, reducing growth in government spending, and spurring economic growth through tax cuts. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, took a hard line against labor unions, and ordered military actions in Grenada. He was reelected in a landslide in 1984, proclaiming it was "Morning in America." His second term was primarily marked by foreign matters, namely the ending of the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, and the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair. Publicly describing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", he supported anti-Communist movements worldwide and spent his first term forgoing the strategy of détente by ordering a massive military buildup in an arms race with the USSR. Reagan negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, culminating in the INF Treaty and the decrease of both countries' nuclear arsenals.

Reagan left office in 1989. In 1994, the former president disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier in the year; he died ten years later at the age of 93. He ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating.

George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12, 1924) was the 41st President of the United States (1989-1993). He was also Ronald Reagan's Vice President (1981–1989), a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.

Bush was born in Massachusetts to Senator and New York Banker Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at the age of 18, Bush postponed going to college and became the youngest naval aviator in the US Navy at the time.[1] He served until the end of the war, then attended Yale University. Graduating in 1948, he moved his family to West Texas and entered the oil business, becoming a millionaire by the age of 40.

He became involved in politics soon after founding his own oil company, serving as a member of the House of Representatives, among other positions. He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 1980, but was chosen by party nominee Ronald Reagan to be the vice presidential nominee; the two were subsequently elected. During his tenure, Bush headed administration task forces on deregulation and fighting drug abuse.

In 1988, Bush launched a successful campaign to succeed Reagan as president, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency; military operations were conducted in Panama and the Persian Gulf at a time of world change; the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. Domestically, Bush reneged on a 1988 campaign promise and after a struggle with Congress, signed an increase in taxes that Congress had passed. In the wake of economic concerns, he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Bush is the father of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida. He is the most recent president to have been a World War II veteran, and the most recent president to have fought in a war prior to being elected.

Bill Clinton

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III, August 19, 1946)[1] was the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He was the third-youngest president; only Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were younger when entering office. He became president at the end of the Cold War, and as he was born in the period after World War II, he is known as the first Baby Boomer president.[2] His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is currently the United States Secretary of State. She was previously a United States Senator from New York, and also candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Both are graduates of Yale Law School.

Clinton was described as a New Democrat and was largely known for the Third Way philosophy of governance that came to epitomize his two terms as president.[3] His policies, on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and welfare reform, have been described as centrist.[4][5] Clinton presided over the longest period of peace-time economic expansion in American history, which included a balanced budget and a reported federal surplus.[6][7] Based on Congressional accounting rules, at the end of his presidency Clinton reported a surplus of $559 billion. On the heels of a failed attempt at health care reform with a Democratic Congress, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.[8] Two years later, in 1996, Clinton was re-elected and became the first member of the Democratic Party since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term as president.[9] Later he was impeached for obstruction of justice, but was subsequently acquitted by the U.S. Senate.[10][11]

Clinton left office with an approval rating at 66%, the highest end of office rating of any president since World War II.[12] Since then, he has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. Clinton created the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote and address international causes such as treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and global warming.

In 2004, he released his autobiography My Life, and was involved in his wife Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign and subsequently in that of President Barack Obama. In 2009, he was named United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti.

George W. Bush

George Walker Bush (En-us-George Walker Bush.ogg /ˈdʒɔrdʒ ˈwɔːkər ˈbʊʃ/ ; born July 6, 1946) was the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009 and the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.

Bush is the eldest son of George H. W. Bush (the 41st President) and Barbara Bush, making him one of only two American presidents to be the son of a preceding president.[4] After graduating from Yale University in 1968, and Harvard Business School in 1975, Bush worked in his family's oil businesses. He married Laura Welch in 1977 and unsuccessfully ran for the United States House of Representatives shortly thereafter. He later co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before defeating Ann Richards in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. In a close and controversial election, Bush was elected President in 2000 as the Republican candidate, receiving a majority of the electoral votes while losing the popular vote to then-Vice President Al Gore.

Eight months into Bush's first term as president, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred. In response, Bush announced a global War on Terrorism, ordered an invasion of Afghanistan that same year and an invasion of Iraq in 2003. In addition to national security issues, Bush promoted policies on the economy, health care, education, and social security reform. He signed into law broad tax cuts,[5] the No Child Left Behind Act and Medicare prescription drug benefits for seniors. His tenure saw a national debate on immigration and Social Security.[6]

Bush successfully ran for re-election against Democratic Senator John Kerry in 2004, garnering 50.7% of the popular vote to his opponent's 48.3%. After his re-election, Bush received increasingly heated criticism from conservatives.[7][8][9] In 2005, the Bush Administration dealt with widespread criticism over its handling of Hurricane Katrina. In December 2007, the United States entered the longest post-World War II recession.[10] That prompted the Bush Administration to take more direct control of the economy, enacting multiple economic programs intended to preserve the country's financial structure. Though Bush was a popular president for much of his first term,[11] his popularity declined sharply during his second term.[12][13][14][15]

After leaving office, Bush returned to Texas. He is currently a public speaker and is writing a book about his presidency.

Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II (/bəˈrɑːk huːˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/ ( listen); born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office, as well as the first president born in Hawaii. Obama previously served as the junior United States Senator from Illinois from January 2005 until he resigned after his election to the presidency in November 2008.

Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he ran for United States Senate in 2004. During the campaign, several events brought him to national attention, such as his victory in the March 2004 Democratic primary election for the United States Senator from Illinois as well as his prime-time televised keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He won election to the U.S. Senate in November 2004.

Obama began his run for the presidency in February 2007. After a close campaign in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton, he won his party's nomination. In the 2008 general election, he defeated Republican nominee John McCain and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. On October 9, 2009, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

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