President of the United States

The President of the United States is the head of state of the United States. Under the U.S. Constitution, the President is also the chief executive of the federal government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Because of the superpower status of the United States, the American President is considered by many to be the most powerful person on Earth, and is usually one of the world's best-known public figures. During the Cold War, the President was sometimes referred to as "the leader of the free world," a phrase that is still invoked today, mostly by Americans.

The United States was the first nation to create the office of President, the head of government in a republic. Today the office is widely emulated all over the world in nations with a presidential system of government.

The current President of the United States is George W. Bush.


Requirements to hold office

Section One of Article II of the U.S. Constitution establishes the requirements one must meet in order to become President. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States (or a citizen of the United States at the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted), be at least 35 years of age, and have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.

The natural-born citizenship requirement has been the subject of some controversy in recent years. Some commentators argue that the clause should be repealed because it excludes qualified people based on technicalities, and fails to appreciate the contributions made by immigrants to American society. Prominent public officials that are barred from the presidency because they were not born U.S. citizens include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria; Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, both born in Cuba; Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, born in Taiwan; Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, born in the United Kingdom; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, born in Czechoslovakia; and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, born in British Columbia, Canada. Occasionally, constitutional amendments are proposed to remove or amend this requirement, but none have yet been successful.

Under the Constitution, the President serves a four-year term. Amendment XXII (which took effect in 1951 and was first applied to Dwight D. Eisenhower starting in 1953) limits the president to either two four-year terms or a maximum of ten years in office should he have succeeded to the Presidency previously and served less than two years completing his predecessor's term. Since then, three presidents have served two full terms: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Incumbent President George W. Bush will become the fourth at the completion of his current term in 2008.

Presidential elections

U.S. presidential elections are held every four years. Presidents are elected indirectly, through the Electoral College. The President and the Vice President are the only two nationally elected officials in the United States. (Legislators are elected on a state-by-state basis; other executive officers and judges are appointed.) Originally, each elector voted for two people for President. The votes were tallied and the person receiving the greatest number of votes (provided that such a number was a majority of electors) became President, while the individual who was in second place became Vice President.

The ratification of Amendment XII in 1804 changed the electoral process by directing the electors to use separate ballots to vote for the President and Vice President. To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes, or if no candidate receives a majority, the President and Vice President are chosen by the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, as necessary. Since 1933, with the ratification of Amendment XX, a newly-elected President, or a re-elected incumbent, is sworn into office on January 20 of the year following the election, an event called Inauguration Day. Although the Chief Justice of the United States usually administers the presidential oath of office, any federal judge can administer the oath — and even judges of federal district courts have fulfilled this duty in emergencies. See Sarah T. Hughes.

On Inauguration Day, following the oath of office, the President customarily delivers an inaugural address which sets the tone for his administration.

The modern Presidential election process begins with the primary elections, during which the major parties (currently the Democrats and the Republicans) each select a nominee to unite behind; the nominee in turn selects a running mate to join him on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate. The two major candidates then face off in the general election, usually participating in nationally televised debates before Election Day and campaigning across the country to explain their views and plans to the voters. Much of the modern electoral process is concerned with winning swing states, through frequent visits and mass media advertising drives.

, 1st President (1789-1797)
George Washington, 1st President (1789-1797)

In accordance with Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 8 of the Constitution, upon entering office, the President must take the following oath or affirmation: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Only presidents Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover have chosen to affirm rather than swear. The oath is traditionally ended with, "So help me God," although for religious reasons some Presidents have said, "So help me."

Presidential powers

Main article: Powers of the President of the United States

The office of president of the United States is one of the most powerful offices of its kind in the world. The president, the Constitution says, must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." To carry out this responsibility, the president presides over the executive branch of the federal government — a vast organization numbering about 4 million people, including 1 million active-duty military personnel. In addition, the president has important legislative and judicial powers.


The United States presidential line of succession is a detailed list of government officials to serve or act as President upon a vacancy in the office due to death, resignation, or removal from office (by impeachment and conviction). The line of 17 begins with the Vice President and ends with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The Constitution provided that, if a President were to die, resign, or be removed from office, the "powers and duties" of the office would devolve upon the Vice President, but did not specify whether the Vice President would succeed to the office of President or merely act as President. After the death of William Henry Harrison, however, Vice President John Tyler asserted that he had become the President, not merely Acting President, and this precedent was followed in all subsequent cases.

The 25th amendment eliminated this ambiguity by confirming the Vice President as first in the order as well as spelling out a process for him to serve as Acting President should the President become disabled. A provision of the United States Code (Template:UnitedStatesCode) establishes the rest of the succession line.

To date no officer other than the Vice President has been called upon to act as President.


For a list of persons who served as the President of the United States following the ratification of the United States Constitution see the list of Presidents of the United States. (For leaders prior to this ratification, see President of the Continental Congress.)


# Name Took office Left office Party Vice President(s)
1 George Washington 1789 1797 No party John Adams
2 John Adams 1797 1801 Federalist Thomas Jefferson
3 Thomas Jefferson Missing image

1801 1809 Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr and George Clinton[1]
4 James Madison Missing image

1809 1817 Democratic-Republican George Clinton[1] and Elbridge Gerry[1]
5 James Monroe 1817 1825 Democratic-Republican Daniel D. Tompkins
6 John Quincy Adams 1825 1829 Democratic-Republican John C. Calhoun
7 Andrew Jackson Missing image

1829 1837 Democrat John C. Calhoun[2] and Martin Van Buren
8 Martin Van Buren 1837 1841 Democrat Richard Mentor Johnson
9 William Henry Harrison[3] Missing image

1841 1841 Whig John Tyler
10 John Tyler Missing image

1841 1845 Whig[4] none
11 James Knox Polk Missing image

1845 1849 Democrat George M. Dallas
12 Zachary Taylor[3] Missing image

1849Template:Ref 9 1850 Whig Millard Fillmore
13 Millard Fillmore Missing image

1850 1853 Whig none
14 Franklin Pierce Missing image

1853 1857 Democrat William R. King[5]
15 James Buchanan Missing image

1857 1861 Democrat John C. Breckinridge
16 Abraham LincolnTemplate:Ref 6 1861 1865 Republican Hannibal Hamlin and Andrew Johnson
17 Andrew Johnson Missing image

1865 1869 DemocratTemplate:Ref 7 none
18 Ulysses Simpson Grant Missing image

1869 1877 Republican Schuyler Colfax and Henry Wilson[5]
19 Rutherford Birchard Hayes Missing image

1877 1881 Republican William A. Wheeler
20 James Abram GarfieldTemplate:Ref 6 1881 1881 Republican Chester A. Arthur
21 Chester Alan Arthur 1881 1885 Republican none
22 Stephen Grover Cleveland 1885 1889 Democrat Thomas A. Hendricks[5]
23 Benjamin Harrison 1889 1893 Republican Levi P. Morton
24 Stephen Grover Cleveland 1893 1897 Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson
25 William McKinleyTemplate:Ref 6 1897 1901 Republican Garret A. Hobart[5] then Theodore Roosevelt
26 Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. 1901 1909 Republican None then Charles W. Fairbanks
27 William Howard Taft 1909 1913 Republican James S. Sherman[5]
28 Thomas Woodrow Wilson Missing image

1913 1921 Democrat Thomas R. Marshall
29 Warren Gamaliel Harding[3] 1921 1923 Republican Calvin Coolidge
30 John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. Missing image

1923 1929 Republican None then Charles G. Dawes
31 Herbert Clark Hoover Missing image

1929 1933 Republican Charles Curtis
32 Franklin Delano Roosevelt[3] Missing image

1933 1945 Democrat John Nance Garner and Henry A. Wallace and Harry S. Truman
33 Harry S. Truman 1945 1953 Democrat None then Alben W. Barkley
34 Dwight David Eisenhower Missing image

1953 1961 Republican Richard M. Nixon
35 John Fitzgerald KennedyTemplate:Ref 6 1961 1963 Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson
36 Lyndon Baines Johnson Missing image

1963 1969 Democrat None then Hubert H. Humphrey
37 Richard Milhous NixonTemplate:Ref 8 1969 1974 Republican Spiro Agnew[2] then None then Gerald Ford
38 Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. 1974 1977 Republican None then Nelson Rockefeller
39 James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. Missing image

1977 1981 Democrat Walter F. Mondale
40 Ronald Wilson Reagan Missing image

1981 1989 Republican George H. W. Bush
41 George Herbert Walker Bush 1989 1993 Republican James Danforth Quayle III
42 William Jefferson Clinton Missing image

1993 2001 Democrat Albert A. Gore, Jr.
43 George Walker Bush Missing image

2001 Incumbent Republican Richard B. Cheney

Former Presidents

After a president of the U.S. leaves office, the title "President" continues to be applied to that person the rest of his life. Former presidents continue to be important national figures, and in some cases go on to successful post-presidential careers. Notable examples have included William Howard Taft's tenure as Chief Justice of the United States and Jimmy Carter's current career as a global human rights campaigner and best-selling writer. Andrew Johnson was elected to the same Senate that tried his impeachment after his term was over.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and their wives at the funeral of President Richard Nixon on  .
Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and their wives at the funeral of President Richard Nixon on 27 April 1994.

As of May 2005, there are four living former presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The most recently deceased President is Ronald Reagan, who died in June 2004.

There have never been more than five former presidents alive at any given time in American history. There have been three periods during which five former presidents were alive:

There have been six periods in American history during which no former presidents were alive:

Herbert Hoover had the longest post-presidency, 31 years. He left office in 1933 and died in 1964. James K. Polk had the shortest post-presidency. He died on June 15, 1849, a mere three months after the expiration of his term.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only President to serve more than 8 years in the office (1933-1945). Prior to his administration, presidents chose to follow the example set by George Washington to limit their tenure to two terms or less. Following the passage of the Twenty-second Amendment in 1951, however, a two-term limit became the law.

Between the birth of George Washington in 1732 and the birth of Bill Clinton in 1946, future presidents have been born in every decade except two: the 1810s and the 1930s. Between the death of George Washington in 1799 and the present, presidents or ex-presidents have died in every decade except four: the 1800s, 1810s, 1950s, and 1980s.

Presidential salary and benefits

Presidential Pay History
Date established Salary
September 24, 1789 $25,000
March 3, 1873 $50,000
March 4, 1909 $75,000
January 19, 1949 $100,000
January 20, 1969 $200,000
January 20, 2001 $400,000

The First U.S. Congress voted to pay George Washington a salary of $25,000 a year — a significant sum in 1789. Washington, already a successful man, refused to accept his salary. Since 2001, the President has earned a salary of $400,000 a year.

Traditionally, the President, as the most important official in the U.S. government, is the highest-paid government employee. Consequently, the President's salary serves as a cap of sorts for all other federal officials, such as the Chief Justice. The raise for 2001 was approved by Congress and President Bill Clinton in 1999 because other officials who receive annual cost-of-living increases had salaries approaching the President's. Consequently, in order to raise the salaries of the other federal employees, the President's salary had to be raised as well.

Modern Presidents enjoy many non-salary benefits such as living and working in the spacious White House mansion in Washington, DC. While traveling, the President is able to conduct all the functions of the office aboard several specially-built Boeing 747s, which take the call sign Air Force One when the President is aboard. The President travels around Washington in an armored Cadillac limousine, equipped with bullet-proof windows and tires and a self-contained ventilation system in the event of a biological or chemical attack. When traveling longer distances around the Washington area or on presidential trips, the President travels aboard the presidential helicopter, which takes the call sign Marine One when the president is aboard. Additionally, the President has full use of Camp David in Maryland, a sprawling retreat occasionally used as a casual setting for hosting foreign dignitaries.

The President and his family are protected at all times by an extensive Secret Service detail. Until 1997, all former Presidents and their families were protected by the Secret Service until the President's death. The last President to have lifetime Secret Service protection is Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and all subsequent Presidents will be protected by the Secret Service for a maximum of 10 years after leaving office.

Presidents continue to enjoy other benefits after leaving office such as free mailing privileges, free office space, the right to hold a diplomatic passport and budgets for office help and staff assistance. However, it was not until after Harry S. Truman (1958) that Presidents received a pension after they left office. Additionally, since the presidency of Herbert Hoover, Presidents receive funding from the National Archives and Records Administration upon leaving office to establish their own presidential library. These are not traditional libraries, but rather repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, and other historical materials for each President since Herbert Hoover.

The President has the use of:

Presidential residences

North side of the White House
North side of the White House

The President's principal workplace and official residence is the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, DC. His official vacation or weekend residence is Camp David in Maryland. Many Presidents have also had their own homes.

Presidential facts

Transition events

Other facts

While most presidents have been of substantially English descent, there have been a few who came from a different background:

Presidential authority, past and present:  flying over
Presidential authority, past and present: Air Force One flying over Mount Rushmore

Image Resources

Presidential trivia lists


Presidential candidate trivia lists

Related topics

Past and future Presidential elections


Lesson Plans and Activities

History Clipart and Pictures

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