The following article is the fourth and final installment of a series.
The first, second, third parts may be found here, here, and here.
This writer's vote for the fourth and fifth best presidents respectively goes to Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt.
4. Ronald Wilson Reagan
His real genius is that he accomplished so much more than his three big goals, without ever breaking into a sweat. When Reagan entered the White House in 1981, he had wanted to defeat the murderous Soviet Union; he wanted to restore American morale, and — he wanted to revive the American economy.
He accomplished these things and more.
Reagan put his cowboy boot heel on the neck of the Soviet Union, applied pressure, and snapped it’s neck, thus freeing millions formerly imprisoned behind the Iron Curtin.
He also had to mop up after the many failures of Jimmy Carter. He tamed the Carter Recession, created 18 million new jobs, brought down monstrous inflation and out of control interest rates.
The 1980’s were halcyon days thanks to Ronald Wilson Reagan, "The Gipper."
He was called "The Great Communicator." It's true, he was that and more!
He consistently gave stelar speeches, employing his mellifluous voice.
And let's never forget, he changed the GOP forever.
He’d been an executive his whole life, from being captain of the swim team in college to president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), to serving two terms as governor of California.
He left office with a 73% approval rating (and 43% among Democrats).
Many thought he was born to be president and by all accounts, he enjoyed the presidency.
(A sign outside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The facility contains the president's archives as well as an authentic Air Force One. (Danny Raustadt/Dreamstime.com)
5. Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt
Shakespeare famously wrote in "Twelfth Night," "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."
No U.S. president was born great, some achieved greatness, and others had greatness thrust upon them. Every president on this list ascended to the presidency in the midst of a great calamity. For some it was war, for others it was economic upheaval.
In one form or another, each had greatness thrust upon them.
All except Theodore Roosevelt: he achieved his greatness alone.
President Teddy Roosevelt assumed office in 1901, following the assassination of William McKinley by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, in Buffalo, New York (Sept. 6, 1901) at the Pan-American Exposition (the Temple of Music).
At 42, this made him the youngest person to ever assume, then hold the presidency.
Interestingly, both Democrats and Republicans claim parts of his legacy, but neither can embrace him entirely.
He entered office as a Republican and was, nominally, supportive of private enterprise over government regulation. Yet he quickly developed a reputation as a "trust buster," aggressively invoking the Sherman Antitrust act to break up monopolies like Standard Oil that had seized end-to-end control of their respective industries. Further, he supported and expanded the rights of labor unions while pushing for the creation of a welfare state.
Conversely, he believed strongly in American exceptionalism.
During his tenure, he aggressively expanded American naval power, built the Panama Canal, and earned a Nobel Peace Prize (1906) for mediating peace in the Russo-Japan War (of 1904-1905). His "big stick" diplomacy kept America out of any major conflicts while still playing an outsized role in global politics.
He was a popular president who could have served a third term but honored his promise not to. He considered it wrong to extend his presidency beyond the eight years established under George Washington. Ironically, decades later, his fifth cousin, Franklin, would become the first and only man to break with this tradition.
Recently, this writer has given you exmples of the worst and best presidents in our nation's history. Learning about America's presidency shouldn't end there. Read all you can about our nation's chief executives, to see how our nation has endured, progressed, and will always continue to do so.
Our American greatness is reflected, in part, in its presidency.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian having written six books on Reagan. He has also written The New York Times bestseller, "December, 1941" and just published the companion book, "April, 1945" to wide acclaim. He is also the author of the book "Mary Ball Washington," which won the People’s Choice Award from the Library of Virginia. His book on the 1980 campaign entitled "Rendezvous with Destiny" was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the five best campaign books of all time. Read Craig Shirley's Reports — More Here.
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