The head of state of the United States is called the President, who also serves the functions of chief executive and commander in chief of the armed forces. Under the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. president serves a four-year term and (starting when the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower brought its twenty-second amendment into full force) may be re-elected only once.

Upon entering office, the President must repeat 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". The oath is traditionaly ended with "So help me God".

As the most powerful person in the United States, a democratic republic and currently the world's only superpower, the President is sometimes referred to as "the leader of the free world," though this designation was more common during the Cold War. In government jargon, the President of the United States has been called since the Truman Administration by the acronym POTUS. The wife of the President is traditionally referred to as the First Lady (govt. jargon: FLOTUS).

Table of contents
1 Presidential powers
2 Requirements to hold office
3 Succession
4 Presidents of the United States
5 Timeline
6 Former Presidents
7 Presidential salary and perks
8 Presidential facts
9 Miscellaneous information
10 Related articles
11 External links

Presidential powers

George Washington
1st President

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.

Presidential executive powers

Within the executive branch itself, the president has broad powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The president can issue rules, regulations, and instructions called executive orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies but do not require congressional approval. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States, the president may also call into federal service the state units of the National Guard. In times of war or national emergency, the Congress may grant the president even broader powers to manage the national economy and protect the security of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln
16th President

The president nominates — and the Senate confirms — the heads of all executive departments and agencies, together with hundreds of other high-ranking federal officials. (See United States Cabinet, Executive Office of the President.) In 2003, more than 3000 executive agency positions were subject to presidential appointment, with more than 1200 requiring Senate approval. The large majority of federal workers, however, are selected through the Civil Service system, in which appointment and promotion are based on ability and experience.

The President is also responsible for preparing the budget of the United States, although the Congress must approve it. (See Office of Management and Budget)

Presidential legislative powers

Despite the constitutional provision that "all legislative powers" shall be vested in the Congress, the president, as the chief formulator of public policy, has a major legislative role. The president can veto any bill passed by Congress and, unless two-thirds of the members of each house vote to override the veto, the bill does not become law.

Much of the legislation dealt with by Congress is drafted at the initiative of the executive branch. In annual and special messages to Congress, the president may propose legislation he believes is necessary. The most important of these is the annual State of the Union Address traditionally given in January. Before a joint session of Congress, the President outlines the status of the country and his legislative proposals for the upcoming year. If Congress should adjourn without acting on those proposals, the president has the power to call it into special session. But beyond this official role, the president, as head of a political party and as principal executive officer of the U.S. government, is primarily in a position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the course of legislation in Congress.

Theodore Roosevelt
26th President

To improve their working relationships with Congress, presidents in recent years have set up a Congressional Liaison Office in the White House. Presidential aides keep abreast of all important legislative activities and try to persuade senators and representatives of both parties to support administration policies.

Presidential judicial powers

Among the president's constitutional powers is that of appointing important public officials. Presidential nomination of federal judges, including members of the Supreme Court, is subject to confirmation by the Senate. Another significant power is that of granting a full or conditional pardon to anyone convicted of breaking a federal law — except in a case of impeachment. The pardoning power has come to embrace the power to shorten prison terms and reduce fines.

Presidential powers in foreign affairs

Under the Constitution, the president is the federal official primarily responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations. The president appoints ambassadors, ministers, and consuls — subject to confirmation by the Senate — and receives foreign ambassadors and other public officials. With the secretary of state, the president manages all official contacts with foreign governments. On occasion, the president may personally participate in summit conferences where chiefs of state meet for direct consultation. Thus, President Woodrow Wilson headed the American delegation to the Paris conference at the end of World War I; President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Allied leaders during World War II; and every president since then has sat down with world leaders to discuss economic and political issues and to reach bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
32nd President

Through the Department of State, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiate treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds of the Senate. The president may also negotiate "executive agreements" with foreign powers that are not subject to Senate confirmation.

Constraints on Presidential power

Because of the vast array of presidential roles and responsibilities, coupled with a conspicuous presence on the national and international scene, political analysts have tended to place great emphasis on the president's powers. Some have even spoken of "the imperial presidency," referring to the expanded role of the office that Franklin D. Roosevelt maintained during his term.

One of the first sobering realities a new president discovers is an inherited bureaucratic structure that can be difficult to manage and slow to change direction. The president's power to appoint extends only to some 3,000 people out of a civilian government work force of about 3 million.

John F. Kennedy
35th President

The president finds that the machinery of government (the civil service) often operates independently of presidential interventions, has done so through earlier administrations, and will continue to do so in the future. New presidents are immediately confronted with a backlog of decisions from the outgoing administration. They inherit a budget formulated and enacted into law long before they came to office, as well as major spending programs (such as veterans' benefits, Social Security payments, and Medicare health insurance for the elderly), which are mandated by law. In foreign affairs, presidents must conform with treaties and informal agreements negotiated by their predecessors in office.

As the happy euphoria of the post-election "honeymoon" dissipates, the new president discovers that Congress has become less cooperative and the media more critical. The president is forced to build at least temporary alliances among diverse, often antagonistic interests — economic, geographic, ethnic, and ideological. Compromises with Congress must be struck if any legislation is to be adopted. "It is very easy to defeat a bill in Congress," lamented President John F. Kennedy. "It is much more difficult to pass one."

Despite these constraints, every president achieves at least some of his legislative goals and prevents by veto the enactment of other laws he believes not to be in the nation's best interests. The president's authority in the conduct of war and peace, including the negotiation of treaties, is substantial. Moreover, the president can use his unique position to articulate ideas and advocate policies, which then have a better chance of entering the public consciousness than those held by his political rivals. President Theodore Roosevelt called this aspect of the presidency "the bully pulpit," for when a president raises an issue, it inevitably becomes subject to public debate. A president's power and influence may be limited, but they are also greater than those of any other American, in or out of office.

Though constrained by various other laws passed by Congress, the President's executive branch conducts most foreign policy, and his power to order and direct troops as commander-in-chief is quite significant. (The exact limits of what a President can do with the military without Congressional authorization are open to debate.)

Requirements to hold office

Article 2, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution sets the requirements one must meet in order to become President:

  1. A natural-born citizen of the United States
  2. Thirty-five years of age
  3. Resident of the United States for 14 years.


There is a well-defined sequence of who should fill the Presidential office, upon the death, resignation, or removal from office (by impeachment and subsequent conviction) of a sitting President:

  1. the Vice President of the United States
  2. the Speaker of the House of Representatives
  3. the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.

This list is only partial. See the entire United States Presidential line of succession. The Twenty-fifth Amendment was ratified to define how the President is deemed incapable of discharging his powers and duties and when the Vice President becomes Acting President.

Presidents of the United States

# Name Took Office Left Office Party

1 George Washington 17891797 no party

2 John Adams 1797 1801 Federalist

3 Thomas Jefferson 1801 1809 Democratic-Republican

4 James Madison 1809 1817 Democratic-Republican

5 James Monroe 1817 1825 Democratic-Republican

6 John Quincy Adams 1825 1829 Democratic-Republican

7 Andrew Jackson 1829 1837 Democrat

8 Martin Van Buren 1837 1841 Democrat

9 William Henry Harrison 1841 1841 Whig

10 John Tyler 1841 1845 Whig*

11 James Knox Polk 1845 1849 Democrat

12 Zachary Taylor 1849 1850 Whig

13 Millard Fillmore 1850 1853 Whig

14 Franklin Pierce 1853 1857 Democrat

15 James Buchanan 1857 1861 Democrat

16 Abraham Lincoln 1861 1865 Republican

17 Andrew Johnson 1865 1869 Republican**

18 Ulysses Simpson Grant 1869 1877 Republican

19 Rutherford Birchard Hayes 1877 1881 Republican

20 James Abram Garfield 1881 1881 Republican

21 Chester Alan Arthur 1881 1885 Republican

22 Stephen Grover Cleveland 1885 1889 Democrat

23 Benjamin Harrison 1889 1893 Republican

24 Stephen Grover Cleveland 1893 1897 Democrat

25 William McKinley 1897 1901 Republican

26 Theodore Roosevelt 1901 1909 Republican

27 William Howard Taft 1909 1913 Republican

28 Thomas Woodrow Wilson 1913 1921 Democrat

29 Warren Gamaliel Harding 1921 1923 Republican

30 John Calvin Coolidge, Jr 1923 1929 Republican

31 Herbert Clark Hoover 1929 1933 Republican

32 Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933 1945 Democrat

33 Harry S. Truman 1945 1953 Democrat

34 Dwight David Eisenhower 1953 1961 Republican

35 John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961 1963 Democrat

36 Lyndon Baines Johnson 1963 1969 Democrat

37 Richard Milhous Nixon 1969 1974 Republican

38 Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr 1974 1977 Republican

39 James Earl 'Jimmy' Carter, Jr 1977 1981 Democrat

40 Ronald Wilson Reagan 1981 1989 Republican

41 George Herbert Walker Bush 1989 1993 Republican

42 William Jefferson Clinton 1993 2001 Democrat

43 George Walker Bush 2001 - Republican

* Democrat on Whig ticket
** Democrat on Republican ticket


Former Presidents

After a President leaves office, he continues to be referred to as "President" for 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 former President William Howard Taft's appointment as Chief Justice of the United States and former President Jimmy Carter's current career as a global human rights campaigner.

Currently, there are five living former presidents. They are:

There have been only two other occasions where five former presidents were alive:

Presidential salary and perks

Presidential Pay History
Date establishedSalary
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 United States Congress voted to pay George Washington a salary of $25,000 a year, a significant sum in 1789. Washington, already a successful man, didn't take the money. Since 2001, the President has earned a salary of $400,000 a year, modest in comparison to the multi-million dollar salaries of most private-sector chief executive officers.

Traditionally, the President, as the most important official in the U.S. government, is to be 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. Thus, in order to raise the salaries of other federal employees, the President's salary had to be raised to avoid surpassing the President.

Modern Presidents enjoy many non-salary perks such as living and working in the spacious White House mansion in Washington, DC. While travelling, 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 attack. When traveling longer distances around the Washington area, the President travels aboard the Presidential helicopter, Marine One.

Additionally, the President has full use of Camp David in Maryland, a sprawling retreat occasionally used as a casual setting for hosting foreign dignitaries. At all times, the President and his family are protected by an extensive Secret Service detail.

Until the law was changed in 1997, all former Presidents and their family were protected by the Secret Service until their death. The last President to have Secret Service protection for life is Bill Clinton. George Walker Bush and all following Presidents will be protected by the Secret Service for a maximum of 10 years after leaving office.

Presidential facts

Four U.S. Presidents have been assassinated while in office:

Four others died in office of natural causes: One President resigned from office: Two Presidents have been impeached, though neither was subsequently convicted: Four Presidents have been elected without a plurality of popular votes: Two Presidents have been elected without a majority of electoral votes, and were chosen by the House of Representatives: Five Presidents were not elected at all, although with the exception of Gerald Ford all were elected Vice President: While most presidents have been of English descent, there have been a few who came, at least in part, from a different European background: Kennedy was also America's first, and to date, only Catholic president.

Presidential residences

The President's principal workplace and official residence is the White House, but of course they have had other homes. This is a list of some of those homes:

Presidents of the Continental Congress

Main article:
President of the Continental Congress

There were six men who served as President of the Continental Congress prior to the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. These men held very few powers that are now associated with the U.S. presidency and cannot be considered to have been heads of state. Their primary duty was to preside over the Congress (hence the original meaning of "president").

Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled

Main article: President of the United States in Congress Assembled

There were ten Presidents under the Articles of Confederation. These men held few powers that are now associated with the U.S. presidency and cannot be considered to have been heads of state or the "Chief Executive". These men were simply heads of government with Congress holding all executive powers.

Miscellaneous information

On a less serious note:

Related articles

External links

There is also a rock band called The Presidents of the United States of America.