I would like to explain an American idea that has shaped this country from its beginnings. What do you think of when you hear the names: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush. These are all names that should bring to mind the great position of the presidency.
How often is it that you consider, historically, how these men came to be a United States President? Do you ever think about what the president’s duties entail and what powers they hold? Do you wonder how they use these powers to oversee our government? Maybe you ” re a political science buff and can explain each of these off the cuff. Or possibly, you ” re very much like me; you only know the general concepts of these areas. Either way, I hope you will learn at least a little something from the various aspects of what I’m about to explain regarding the position of the United States Presidency. As I researched this subject I realized that we as Americans don’t really think about how unique our concept of a president is.
So I’m going to challenge you to look back in history and envision yourself in the position of our founding fathers. The Revolutionary War is over; independence is achieved from Britain and we are now left to the decision of how to deal with our freedom. We have only the Declaration of Independence to act as our guide to the values of a new American government. Tough position? I’d say so. But, like all things, this process of building a government came in pieces and it started with the Continental Congress. On September 5, 1774 the Continental Congress of the United States was formed in response to the Intolerable Acts passed by King George III.
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(President of) This Congress was basically a group of men, lead by a chairman, that came together to petition the various English laws that now affected them in their American colonies. This Congress continued for almost two years with no relief from Britain, so on July 2, 1776 they declared their independence from Great Britain by the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (Klos, Happy Birthday) With this declaration declared, a war began and the colonies realized they needed some sort of formal documentation to oversee their war against England. On November 5, 1777 the Continental Congress passed the original Articles of Confederation.
(President of) The Congress, realizing these articles were very much a rough draft of what was needed for their new United States, required that all thirteen states be ratified before the document could officially become the first Constitution. In the course of the next 4 years each of the states slowly became ratified. On March 1, 1781 the Continental Congress ceased to exist and was replaced with The United States in Congress Assembled… (Klos, President Who) The Articles of Confederation established various statutes that laid the foundation for the government we have today. They named our country The United States of America and formed a bond between all the states for “their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them.” (Articles) This fellowship allowed free men to move liberally around the states and created accountability for criminals by forcing them to return to the state of their crime if they were caught in another state.
It laid the basic ground rules for the delegates to Congress and the general powers that Congress would have. One of the powers of Congress laid out in the Articles was the authority to appoint a committee called “A Committee of the States” that would sit in recess of Congress. The committee would consist of a single delegate from each state and that one member would “serve in the office of president.” This president along with his committee carried the responsibility and power to “ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses – to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States… to build and equip a navy… at the expense of the United States.” (Articles) The presidential position on this committee established a title that our country would soon use for the leader of our land and laid a foundation for that position to grow upon. Over time the articles proved to be insufficient because it limited the power of the central government way too much for it to govern effectively.
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The problems this caused forced the Congress Assembled to call for a Constitutional Convention. This convention occurred on February 21, 1787 and the goal was to revise the articles to give considerably more power to the federal government. (President of) The Constitutional Convention began on May 25, 1787. Several issues were discussed and debated, among these were the establishment of a governmental leader. After more than three months of debate the basic shape of the presidency materialized: “a single leader, elected to a four-year term and eligible for reelection, with authority to veto bills enacted by Congress. The president was given command of the military and the power to appoint federal officials, subject to confirmation by the Senate.” (Constitution of) From this day forward this position would begin to reflect on the nature of our country.
The power and responsibilities of the presidency have grown since the day of its birth. They have grown so much that they are almost more than one person can handle. In brief, the Constitution requires that the president “discharge the duties of the office and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines each of these words as followed. To preserve, meaning to keep safe from injury, harm or destruction. To protect, meaning to cover or shield from injury or destruction. To defend, meaning to drive danger or attack away from and to maintain or support.
These words, although fairly specific in their dictionary meaning, become very broad in terms when associated with a position and its responsibility to the Constitution of the United States. This statement is short but extensive in such a way that as the years pass the president continues to incur more and more responsibilities. One of the most impacting areas of responsibility for the president is in the area of legislative matters. The president is the nations chief legislator. He is tasked with giving guidance and setting priorities for our nations Congress.
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He proposes and pursues a very large portion of the actual legislation heard by Congress. He has the power to “strong-arm” Congress in this process with his power of veto, which can block bills that the president does not want in legislation. The president is also in charge of executing the laws of the United States and ensuring the implementation by directing various administrative agencies. (President of) The second major area of presidential responsibility is in the judicial process. First and foremost is his responsibility to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, our highest court in the land.
These appointments are extremely important because as the Supreme Court is the highest law of the land, they constantly set forth standards for all other courts to follow. The president is also responsible for executing the laws that are set forth. He does this by appointing the leaders of each of our federal agencies who are in turn responsible for ensuring that when the law is broken that offenders are punished. (President of) A third area of responsibility is the president’s influence on our economy and foreign policy. At the start of the first term the president initiates budget and tax proposals, often increasing or cutting funds that affect our entire country. He has the power to regulate various industries by the enforcement of safety and environmental regulations.
He has the ability to shape tariffs on imports, this affects the thousands of businesses that buy and sell goods to other countries, which flows directly into his role in foreign policy. In respect to foreign policy he is the chief diplomat of the United States and the Constitution gives him the power to negotiate treaties and appoint diplomatic representatives. He has the power to negotiate executive agreements with foreign countries and has the discretion of whether or not to give official recognition to foreign governments. (The Office) The president also holds many powers over various organizations within the United States. First and foremost, he is our commander in chief of our armed forces giving him an array of powers to direct our military in times of war and peace. As the primary military commander he is responsible for our nations security and the safety of its people.
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With this responsibility lies the power of appointing men and women to various high level positions so that they can ensure the countries security and safety is maintained. He is in charge of appointing members of the Cabinet, employing the head of independent federal agencies, and commissioning all officers of the armed forces. (Gesell, 89) Lastly, the president is the leader of the executive branch of the federal government. This branch consists of fourteen departments: agriculture, commerce, defense, education, energy, health and human services, housing and urban development, interior, justice, labor, state, transportation, treasury, and veteran’s affairs. The president is also in charge of directing various independent agencies to include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Export-Import Bank, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission, Federal Maritime Commission, Federal Reserve System, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, National Labor Relations Board, National Science Foundation, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Small Business Administration, United States Information Agency, and the Postal Service.
(Squire, 323) The role of the president in these departments is as involved as he chooses to be. He may simply decide to identify the heads of these organizations and trust them to run them appropriately or he may take a more active role by constantly being involved. There is no direction as to how he must interact with these organizations. I have told you a little about how our position of the president was made and some of the tasks the position accomplishes. A president, our president, holds a huge amount of responsibility. With the growth of our country from 13 colonies to 50 states so has the role of the president grown.
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This idea is unique because our president does not rule; he leads, hopefully by example. As a leader he is elected, not born in to, the position. He is forced to look to the people, us, and seek approval for his actions. His position is one of great importance that weights heavily upon our country.
I hope that you have learned a little about the historical nature of how this position was created and what the position has grown into today, and maybe you now have a deeper understanding of not only the importance and uniqueness of this position, but also how it works. Gesell, Laurence. Aviation and the Law. Arizona; Coast Aire Publications, 1998 Articles of Confederation. Online. 2 Mar.
2002. Avaliable FTP: our. let. rug. nl President of the United States. CD-ROM.
Microsoft (R) Encarta (R) Encyclopedia 2001. The Office of the President. Online. 2 Mar. 2002. Available FTP: web > Klos, Stanley.
Happy Birthday United States. Online. 2 Mar. 2002.
Available FTP: web > — -. President Who? Online. 2 Mar. 2002.
Available FTP: web > Squire, Peverill, James Lindsay, Cary Covington, and Eric Smith. Brief Edition Dynamics of Democracy. McGraw-Hill. 1997.