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Top 10 Best U. S. Presidents



Andrew Jackson (Democrat)

The 7th President of the United States (1829-1837), Andrew Jackson came from a military background. A hero of the war of 1812, he came to national attention when he led American troops to victory against the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814) and against the British at the Battle of New Orleans (1815). Known as "Old Hickory" for his toughness on the battlefield, Jackson denounced what he saw as a closed undemocratic society. Unlike previous Presidents, he did not defer to Congress in policy-making but used his power of the veto and his party leadership to assume command and increase the power of the presidency. More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote, and as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man. His influence was so great that the period 1830-1850 would later become known as the era of Jacksonian democracy. Modern historians praise Jackson as a protector of popular democracy, but criticize his support of slavery and Indian removal.


John F. Kennedy (Democrat)

The 35th President of the United States (1961-1963), John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic and first Irish American to hold the office. In his Inaugural Address, he offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." Kennedy wanted America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations. His few years in office were a time of great change in America. Events during his presidency included 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 stages of the Vietnam War. On November 22, 1963, having just passed his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President. Unfortunately, he was also the youngest to die.


Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican)

The 34th President of the United States (1953-1961), Dwight D. Eisenhower brought to the Presidency his prestige as commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during World War II. He worked incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions of the Cold War. A moderate conservative, he continued the New Deal policies, enlarged the scope of Social Security, and when desegregation of schools began, he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assure compliance with the orders of a Federal court. He also ordered the complete desegregation of the Armed Forces. "There must be no second class citizens in this country," he wrote. Eisenhower was the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. In his farewell address to the nation, he famously warned of the danger of the military-industrial complex, saying, "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."


Harry S. Truman (Democrat)

The 33rd President of the United States (1945-1953), Harry S. Truman took office when Franklin D. Roosevelt died less than three months into his historic fourth term. During his few weeks as Vice President, Truman scarcely saw President Roosevelt, and received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with Soviet Russia. Suddenly these and a host of other wartime problems became Truman's to solve when, on April 12, 1945, he became President. He told reporters, "I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me." Truman's presidency was eventful, to say the least, with the defeat of Nazi Germany 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 (NATO), Chinese Civil War, and the Korean War. In domestic affairs, he presented to Congress a 21-point program, proposing the expansion of Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act, and public housing and slum clearance. The program, Truman wrote, "symbolizes for me my assumption of the office of President in my own right." It became known as the Fair Deal. Truman popularized such phrases as "The buck stops here," and "If you can't stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen." His legendary upset victory in 1948 over Thomas E. Dewey is routinely invoked by underdog presidential candidates.


Woodrow Wilson (Democrat)

The 28th President of the United States (1913-1921), Woodrow Wilson, was the first President to hold a Ph.D. degree, which he earned from Johns Hopkins University. In his first term, Wilson persuaded Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and America's first-ever federal progressive income tax. In 1917, when the German government sent the Zimmermann Telegram to Mexico and proposed a military alliance in a war against the U.S., then began unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking, without warning, every American merchant ship its submarines could find, Wilson asked Congress to declare war and proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy." In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, a vision of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict like the one it had just endured. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles. 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. The League of Nations was established, but the United States never joined.


Theodore Roosevelt (Republican)

The 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), Theodore Roosevelt was a hero of the Spanish-American War, during which he served as lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders, a small regiment which he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan. As President, Roosevelt held the ideal that the Government should be the great arbiter of the conflicting economic forces in the Nation, especially between capital and labor, guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none. He attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism and endorsed trust busting as well as 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. Aware of the strategic need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt was the force behind the construction of the Panama Canal. He also negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, an act of diplomacy which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the first American to win the Nobel Prize in any field.


Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)

The 3rd President of the United States (1801-1809) and an influential founding father, Thomas Jefferson is also known as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. As president he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the vast new territory and lands further west. He slashed Army and Navy expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey so unpopular in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a third. He also sent a naval squadron to fight the Barbary pirates, who were harassing American commerce in the Mediterranean. Jefferson staunchly supported the separation of church and state and believed in a federal government with greatly constrained powers. A French nobleman observed that he had placed his house and his mind "on an elevated situation, from which he might contemplate the universe."


Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat)

The 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945), Franklin D. Roosevelt (often referred to simply as FDR) led the nation through an unprecedented period of economic crisis and world war. Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He restored hope, promising in his Inaugural Address that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In his first "hundred days," he proposed, and Congress enacted, a sweeping program that would come to be known as the New Deal--a complex, interlocking set of programs designed to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He instituted Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program. He sought to keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe, but when France fell and England came under siege in 1940, he began to send Great Britain all possible aid short of actual military involvement. He finally committed U.S. troops to war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He worked closely with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Germany and Japan, but died just as victory was in sight. Roosevelt believed that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United States and Russia, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which, he hoped, international difficulties could be settled. FDR's combination of optimism and activism contributed to reviving the national spirit and earn him the #3 spot on our list of best U.S. Presidents.


George Washington (no party affiliation)

As the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States (1789–1797), George Washington developed the forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since. He led the American victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775–1783, and he presided over the writing of the Constitution in 1787. "As the first of every thing, in our situation [I] will serve to establish a Precedent," he wrote James Madison after his election, "it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles." As President, Washington built a strong, well-financed national government that stayed neutral in the wars raging in Europe, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. He attempted to bring rival factions together to unify the nation, but to his great frustration, two parties had clearly emerged by the end of his first term. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. Washington is universally regarded as the "Father of his country".


Abraham Lincoln (Republican)

The 16th President of the United States (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln successfully led the country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis--the American Civil War. Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it." As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization and rallied most northern Democrats to the Union cause. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoted the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery. Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." After defeating the South, Lincoln advocated a moderate view of Reconstruction, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion. Through a policy of generous reconciliation, he hoped to diffuse lingering bitterness on both sides, but just six days after the decisive surrender of the commanding general of the Confederate army, Lincoln fell victim to an assassin, the first U.S. president to suffer such a fate. He is still remembered as perhaps the best president in the history of this mighty nation.

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