In honor of President’s Day today I believe it is only fair to compile a list of the nation’s greatest leaders. For any of you who have ever been out to the bar with me, you know there’s a monthly occurrence of executive branch arguments that I stir up. Everyone has a few favorite presidents, but I’m here to present to you all the list of the nation’s very best (and of course my biased opinion).
10) Harry Truman- 33rd President (1945-1953)
Truman may not have been an ideal presidential candidate – falling into incumbency after FDR’s tragic death (during his historical third term), but Truman lands on this list for one main reason – bringing an end to World War II. Now, some would argue that’s why he shouldn’t be on this list, but the fact Truman (who was unaware of the Manhattan Project during his vice presidency) had the courage to drop the Atomic Bomb is why I put him on this list. We could argue the socio-culture debate of right vs. wrong, but think about what would have happened if he hadn’t given the order. The A-Bomb, helped bring a much swifter and abrupt end to the largest, most destructive war the world has ever seen and more importantly showcased the absolute power and destruction such a weapon has. Truman giving the call to the Enola Gay opened everyone’s eyes to what a WOMD really is. Without anyone having the courage to make that decision the world may not have seen a nuclear bomb go off until the Cold War era, which would have been significantly worse scenario. Add in the fact Truman helped fight against the spread of communism (Korean War) and I think we have an admirable start to our list.
9) Woodrow Wilson – 28th President (1913-1921)
I’ll be honest it was either Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt in this spot and much like the head-to-head election Wilson won this battle to land on my list. First, I have to give Wilson props for being a proactive president, especially after coming out of New Jersey. More importantly, as an anti-United Nations advocate, I admire the fact Woodrow Wilson saw the incompetency the League of Nations had pending its creation. Wilson’s ability to keep America out of the Great War (for as long as he could) and maintain our country’s isolationism for the first half of the 20th century is a large reason why America was able to become a super power. Wilson is one of four presidents to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize and created the Federal Trade/Federal Reserve Commissions; with these two accomplishments I believe we can forget about that faulty Prohibition Act he instituted.
8) Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th President (1953-1961)
The former Five-Star general who leads the Allied forces into the monumental D-Day operation lands on this list not just because of his military accomplishments, but his domestic contributions to the United States. I primarily put Eisenhower on this list because of his administration’s ability to build the interstate system in 1956 (this is why you occasionally see signs on the highway that say ‘Eisenhower Interstate System’). Add in the fact he helped evolve FDR and Truman’s New Deal policies – even going as far as to create the Department of Health and Education. Eisenhower also helped end the Korean War, but ironically was the catalyst to U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Even though I do have Truman on this list, I have to give additional props to Eisenhower for warning the government with its participation in the, “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower was strongly against the dropping of the Atomic Bomb (he felt Japan was already on the brink of surrender) and felt in doing so America would tarnish its International reputation along with usher in conflicting big-business and military partnerships.
7) George Washington- 1st President (1789-1797)
I believe we can all agree that any top ten president’s list has to accompany Mr. Washington. He’s the face of the dollar bill, the face of the Revolutionary War, the face of America. Without Washington, the United States of America, likely would not exist or would be merely be a very, weak representation of what it is today. Outside the Revolutionary War and his military accolades one has to acknowledge Washington’s impromptu forming of the presidential cabinet, his subtle in advert creation of two terms, and lastly his beloved farewell address. Plus he’s inspired amazing YouTube videos like this one.
6) James K. Polk – 11th President (1845-1849)
Probably, the most under-rated president in our nation’s history, Polk cracks my top-ten because of two reasons: U.S. territorial expansion and keeping campaign promise. Polk achieved all of his administrations goals while serving his one term. Polk reduced taxes, created an independent U.S. Treasury, and aggressively expanded the U.S. borders. After the Mexican-American War, Polk was able to acquire California (and most of the Southwest), along with capturing the Oregon Territory in 1846 with a diplomatically settle dispute (no war) with Great Britain. The manifest destiny-focused president was able to collect lands which are now the states of, California, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Not to mention unlike most modern-day presidents, Young Hickory (nicknamed after his mentor, Andrew Jackson), kept his campaign promise of only serving one presidential term – did I mention he also laid the groundwork for the Trans-Continental railroad?
5) Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) – 36th President (1963-1968)
LBJ is often over-shadowed by his beloved predecessor, JFK. However, I find LBJ to be extremely underrated especially because he was always in the shadow of JFK’s Camelot tenure in the oval office. After all it was LBJ’s presence on the ticket that allowed JFK to sway Southern Democrats his ballots’ way and keep Nixon out of office –even if just for a short while. After taking office after JFK’s assignation, LBJ could’ve been a selfish president; he could’ve listened to his Texas contingency and not gone through with many of JFK’s administration’s policies. Instead, LBJ righteously pioneered a fight against poverty, helped build Medicare, and most importantly passed the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Right Act (1965). LBJ helped mold modern America; the “Great Society,” as he put it, unfortunately his inability to withdrawal America out of Vietnam is what he’ll forever be linked to.
4) Richard M. Nixon – 37th President (1968-1974)
Regardless, of the Watergate Scandal and being the only president to have ever been impeached, Nixon’s presidential achievements cannot be underestimated. First, Nixon did what majority of his predecessors could not, withdrawal American troops out of Vietnam. Second and most importantly, Nixon opened trade with China. This is the entire reason he cracks the top five. Opening trade with China revolutionized the American economy. To put it in perspective – without Nixon visiting China in 1972, there would never have been a Western influence in an expanding communist portion of the world (keep in mind despite being a communist regime the USSR and China were not on steady diplomatic terms). The Soviet Union at the time would have likely expanded into China and the boarding regions. Communist expansion without the U.S. involvement in China would have likely put the American economy into a panic during Regan’s administration and the later Cold War Era. Consider this, since 1985, the two-way trade between these two nations has escalated from $7 billion to $365 billion –an insane statistic. Aside, from opening the second-largest trade partnership in the world, Nixon gets overlooked for a very admirable trait – his persistence. Lincoln has always been beloved because of his ability to overcome adversity and never giving up, but Nixon was just as resilient. After being VP to Eisenhower, Nixon lost to JFK in the 1960 presidential election and lost a resulting election for Governor in his home state of California, but even after a six-year absence in politics Nixon was able to get elected and make an ever-lasting imprint on the U.S. economy.
3) Thomas Jefferson- 3rd President (1801-1809)
A founding-father, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the Democratic – Republican Party and a president that hardily needs explanation on this list. However, his placement is largely similar to Polk’s appearance on this list. I have to put TJ in the top three mainly because he doubled the size of the United States of America. The Louisiana Purchase was easily a huge acquisition for America. The territory and resources gained with the $15 million purchase is unheralded. Jefferson also receives some additional respect for breaking tradition and walking to and from his own inauguration (Washington/Adams two presidents prior took a horse-drawn carriage).
2) Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) – 32nd President (1932-1945)
Arguably one of the best presidents in history, FDR, pulled America out from the Great Depression, kept them united during WWII, and he did this all with polio. FRD created millions of new jobs, tons of new government-funded organizations, and essentially created the modern bureaucracy with his “New Deal” policies. Despite, abusing his executive power and exceeding the two term limit, FDR, was an integral part of maintaining support and continuity on the home-front during WWII. Remembered largely for his Pearl Harbor speech and Fireside chats, FDR, is immortalized for rejuvenating a crippled economy and preserving the American spirit in one of the world’s darkest moments.
1) Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson – 7th President (1829-1837)
Remember when I said this list might be a little biased? Well, here you go my favorite president and landing at the number one spot, Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. Probably, the most American president to date – the man threw a party (I’m talking drunkards and prostitutes scattered across the White House lawn) at both his inaugurations and won multiple duels during his lifetime (supposedly died with a bullet still lodged in his arm). Jackson was the father of the Democratic Party and helped centralize the National bank. Even lesser known fact, is Jackson was the first president to help preserve the Union. His swift solution to the Bank Crisis with Senator John Calhoun helped preserve Union without leading to the proclaimed secession of South Carolina. Jackson may not have been the most diplomatically successful president, but any president who beats their would-be-assassin with a cane deserves to be number one on a list of top presidents.
Happy Presidents Day everyone!!
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