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Top 10 Best American Presidents

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Michael Finnen, Staff Writer

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All men may be created equal, but not all presidents are. America has had its fair share of bad presidents, but it has also had some of the best leaders as commander-in-chief of the country. Who were these men?

 

  1.  James Monroe

Beginning this list is our 5th president, James Monroe. Monroe led the nation in the early 1800s and presided over the “Era of Good Feelings,” a time when the nation was not divided by partisan politics, due to there being only one major party. Monroe may not have accomplished much during his presidency, but he was in office when the Missouri Compromise was signed in 1820, saving the nation from the Civil War for another 40 years. Monroe’s largest claim to fame comes from his influence on his iconic Monroe Doctrine. Stating that America would come to the aid of Latin American countries against foreign influence, the doctrine did not do much in its own time but was a huge influence on American foreign policy later, most notably in the Spanish-American War.

 

  1. Woodrow Wilson

In the #9 spot, we find Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president. Wilson led America in World War I and was instrumental in the implementation of peace after the war. Wilson also proposed the idea of the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations, so he scores points for influence as well. Wilson was also a huge progressive, passing bills to limit monopolies in big business. He does not rank higher on this list because he did have his issues, most notably being a believer in eugenics, very hypocritical of his progressive standpoint. He also was not able to solve many of the key issues of the Treaty of Versailles, which would lead to another World War in the future.

 

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower

One of America’s most famous generals is also one of America’s best presidents. Eisenhower served in the time after World War II, and had many accomplishments as president. He oversaw the completion of the interstate highway system, a huge boon for travel all across the nation. Eisenhower also defended the rights of African Americans after the landmark cases of Brown v. Board of Education, by sending in federal troops to enforce the integration of public schools in the South. Eisenhower also warned against what he called the “military-industrial complex”; despite being a general, he actually opposed military expansion. Eisenhower has one main drawback, in that he made America increasingly involved in Vietnam, supporting a brutal dictator there, as well as other dictators in Latin America.

 

  1. Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson falls at #7, with his main accomplishment being that he secured the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, doubling the size of America at a bargain price. Despite his fears that his actions may have been unconstitutional, for the constitution never explicitly gives the president the power to buy land, Jefferson went through with it because he felt that it was best for the nation. He falls in rank due to the Embargo Act of 1807, an act which cut off foreign trade with Britain and France as a way to hurt their economies but ended up hurting American finances far more.

 

  1. Ronald Reagan

The so-called “Great Communicator” sits at #6. Reagan may have been an actor who acted with a monkey (look up “Bedtime for Bonzo”), but almost no one could play the part of a president better. Reagan not only helped the sputtering American Economy, but he was also able to say that he effectively won the Cold War, which had been going on for over 30 years. Reagan increased military spending dramatically, which forced the Soviet Union to do the same, eventually bankrupting the Communist nation. Reagan also was able to instill a new sense of confidence in the American people, as a strong leader. He even survived being shot, which definitely gives him some bonus points too.

 

  1. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most famous presidents, being one of the four pictured on Mount Rushmore. Roosevelt was a very strong leader who also survived being shot in the middle of a speech and actually continued it with a bullet inside him. Roosevelt oversaw the building of the Panama Canal, one of the most important structures in worldwide trade. Roosevelt also wrote the Roosevelt Corollary, an addition to the Monroe Doctrine, and used his “Square Deal” domestic policy to break up large trusts and create fairer competition in business. One of his largest accomplishments was building up the American Navy into one of the strongest in the world, a role that it maintains to this very day.

 

  1. James K. Polk

In terms of sheer accomplishment, almost no other presidents can say that they accomplished as much as James K. Polk did. Polk accomplished more in just four short years than most presidents have in eight. Mostly unknown before he entered the presidential race, Polk was able to win, beating out some tough competitors. He presided over the Mexican-American War, which saw America gain an incredible amount of territory from Mexico. Polk also oversaw the Oregon Purchase, which purchased large areas of Oregon and Washington from the British. Manifest Destiny saw its biggest increases with Polk. Polk also cut tariffs in order to help out the American economy. He also created an independent American Treasury. Ultimately, he did everything he set out to do and did not even seek a second term, even though he certainly could have won one.

 

  1. Abraham Lincoln

Not at all surprising, but Abraham Lincoln sits at #3. Lincoln helped bring America back together after the tragic Civil War and oversaw the end of slavery in America. His short, but powerful Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in American history. Lincoln was also the first ever Republican President to win office (John C. Fremont was the first to run). The Civil War alone is enough to raise Lincoln to such a high position, he was a great unifier and also a very influential and beloved leader.

 

  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Surprising that FDR beats out Lincoln, but hear me out. Roosevelt is the only American president to serve more than two terms in office, showing just how popular the man was. Not only did he lead America through the Great Depression, the worst economic slump in its history, where nearly ¼ of the population was unemployed and barely getting by, but he also led America through much of World War II. His New Deal was able to help the suffering nation to slowly claw its way back, and his leadership in World War II was very important. He did all of this from a wheelchair, being paralyzed by polio, unbeknownst to the public. Roosevelt practically redefined the role of the American government, especially with programs such as Social Security for the elderly. Despite some of the issues that these programs cause today, there is no denying that the nation would not be the same without FDR being in office. Certainly, he was one of the best if not the best president, if not for #1…

 

  1. George Washington

Come on, did you really expect anything different? No president has had more influence than Washington himself. He basically molded the office into what it is today. When the nation was first being established, Washington could have turned the presidency into whatever he wanted, make it however powerful he wanted, but instead, he chose to create a modest office, one of poise and dignity. He established the cabinet system, bringing in some of the best and brightest men of his day to advise him because he knew that he could not do it alone. However, his largest contribution to the presidency was undoubtedly giving up his power. Washington could have served for life, but willingly chose to give up his power after just 8 years, setting a precedent which would eventually become law today. There is no sign of a greater man than one who works for the good of the entire nation, rather than just for himself.

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