Presidents Day Question: Who are the Top Seven?
Today we observe Presidents Day. I suppose I’m really not sure what the average person does to ‘observe’ the day, but it’s on the calendar, so let’s take a few moments to consider the question. Who are the top seven among the 45 men who have held the office?
The original intent of Presidents Day was to recognize and celebrate the birth of our first president, George Washington, born on February 22, 1732. Eventually, the Father of our Nation was superseded in favor of recognizing all presidents and as with other holidays, the actual day to observe was changed to a Monday, allowing many people to enjoy a longer weekend.
As a student of American history, I have given much consideration to those who have held the office of President of the United States and I have my thoughts on the most effective men over the past 230 years. These are the men I rank as the top seven based upon leadership and accomplishments.
During my lifetime, two men stand out, both of whom were great leaders with lengthy lists of accomplishments: John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
Kennedy was a Democrat, but he would hardly be recognizable as such today if he would be compared with the ultra-left socialists that dominate our news, especially since the most recent election. Kennedy, who faced down the Soviets in Cuba, challenged our nation to put men on the moon by the end of the 60s, and called on the young to, “Ask not what your country can do for you…” was a leader of the highest order. I cannot think of any today who have his charisma or his gift of leadership.
Reagan, a conservative Republican, had his own unique style, tremendous leadership qualities, and a special ability as The Great Communicator. His greatest accomplishment was overseeing the collapse of the Soviet Union after a long and stressful Cold War: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” His warmth and obvious care for people combined with his wit and great ability to maintain the attention of an audience are unequaled today or perhaps in any era of our history.
But these two men, personal favorites during my lifetime, and highly esteemed by many others, do not enter my top five, but rank as number 6 (Reagan) and number 7 (Kennedy).
My top five and who I believe are the greatest presidents of American history are the first five who held the office: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
Washington (1789-1797): Commander-in-Chief of the Army during the American Revolution. Our first president. Committed to a republican form of government. His Farewell Address is considered to be one of the greatest of all presidential speeches.
Adams (1797-1801): Attorney who helped develop and reinforce the legal concepts of right of counsel and presumption of innocence. Assisted in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. As president, he built the army and navy to successfully fight the Quasi-War against France.
Jefferson (1801-1809): Writer of the Declaration of Independence. Minister to France and Secretary of State. As president, he made the Louisiana Purchase. Ohio and Michigan become states. Authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Used the US Navy to wage a successful war against the Barbary Pirates based in North Africa (1801-1805).
Madison (1809-1817): One of the writers of the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 essays used to interpret the Constitution based on the concept of originalism. Representative of Virginia to the Constitutional Convention. Louisiana and Indiana become states. President during the War of 1812.
Monroe (1817-1825): Secretary of State and Secretary of War. Governor of Virginia. As president, he acquired Florida from Spain. Five new states added to the nation. Set forth the Monroe Doctrine, warning European nations to refrain from the colonization of the Western Hemisphere.
In a blog post such as this, there is insufficient space to discuss all of the accomplishments of these great men. After all, some of our finest historians have written scores of volumes with great depth to describe the lives and accomplishments of each.
My Top Five:
1. George Washington
2. Thomas Jefferson
3. James Madison
4. James Monroe
5. John Adams
George Washington stands above all others, as the hero of the American Revolution, Father of our Country, and as the first President of the United States.
On this Presidents Day, perhaps each of us should spend a few moments thinking about the presidents who have made a positive impression and why we hold them in high esteem. Which ones rank in your top seven?
Happy Presidents Day! (whether you ‘observe’ or not)…
© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2019
(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)