George Washington, 1st President of the United States (17891797)

The President of the United States (often abbreviated "POTUS") is the head of state of the United States. Under the U.S. Constitution, the President is also the chief executive of the federal government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Because of the superpower status of the United States, the American President is considered by many to be the most powerful person on Earth, and is usually one of the world's best-known public figures. During the Cold War, the President was sometimes referred to as "the leader of the free world," a phrase that is still invoked today.

The United States was the first nation to create the office of President, the head of state in a modern republic. Today the office is widely emulated all over the world in nations with a presidential system of government.

The current President of the United States is George W. Bush.

Requirements to hold office Edit


Section One of Article II of the U.S. Constitution establishes the requirements one must meet in order to become President. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States (or a citizen of the United States at the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted), be at least 35 years of age, and have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.

The natural-born citizenship requirement has been the subject of some controversy in recent years. Some commentators argue that the clause should be repealed because it excludes qualified people based on technicalities, and fails to appreciate the contributions made by immigrants to American society. Prominent public officials that are barred from the presidency because they were not born U.S. citizens include California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria; Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, both born in Cuba; Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, born in Taiwan; Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, born in the United Kingdom; former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, born in Germany, and Madeleine Albright, born in Czechoslovakia; and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, born in British Columbia, Canada. Not disqualified from running, however, is Arizona Senator John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which was a U.S. territory under U.S. jurisdiction at the time. Occasionally, constitutional amendments are proposed to remove or amend this requirement, but none have yet been successful.

Under the Constitution, the President serves a four-year term. Amendment XXII (which took effect in 1951 and was first applied to Dwight D. Eisenhower starting in 1953) limits the president to either two four-year terms or a maximum of ten years in office should he have succeeded to the Presidency previously and served less than two years completing his predecessor's term. Since then, three presidents have served two full terms: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon was elected to two terms but resigned before completing his second. Incumbent President George W. Bush will become the fourth at the completion of his current term in 2009.

Presidential electionsEdit

U.S. presidential elections are held every four years. Presidents are elected indirectly, through the Electoral College. The President and the Vice President are the only two nationally elected officials in the United States. (Legislators are elected on a state-by-state basis; other executive officers and judges are appointed.) Originally, each elector voted for two people for President. The votes were tallied and the person receiving the greatest number of votes (provided that such a number was a majority of electors) became President, while the individual who was in second place became Vice President.

The ratification of Amendment XII in 1804 changed the electoral process by directing the electors to use separate ballots to vote for the President and Vice President. To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes, or if no candidate receives a majority, the President and Vice President are chosen by the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, as necessary. Since 1933, with the ratification of Amendment XX, a newly-elected President, or a re-elected incumbent, is sworn into office on January 20 of the year following the election, an event called Inauguration Day. Although the Chief Justice of the United States usually administers the presidential oath of office, any federal judge can administer the oath — and even judges of federal district courts have fulfilled this duty in emergencies. See Sarah T. Hughes.

On Inauguration Day, following the oath of office, the President customarily delivers an inaugural address which sets the tone for his administration.

The modern Presidential election process begins with the primary elections, during which the major parties (currently the Democrats and the Republicans) each select a nominee to unite behind; the nominee in turn selects a running mate to join him on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate. The two major candidates then face off in the general election, usually participating in nationally televised debates before Election Day and campaigning across the country to explain their views and plans to the voters. Much of the modern electoral process is concerned with winning swing states, through frequent visits and mass media advertising drives.

In accordance with Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 8 of the Constitution, upon entering office, the President must take 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." Only presidents Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover have chosen to affirm rather than swear. The oath is traditionally ended with, "So help me God," although for religious reasons some Presidents have said, "So help me", or "and thus I swear."

Presidential factsEdit

  • Four Presidents have been elected without a plurality of popular votes:
    • John Quincy Adams - trailed Andrew Jackson by 44,804 votes in the 1824 election
      • However, in six of the then twenty-four states in 1824, the electors were chosen by the state legislature, with no popular vote.
    • Rutherford B. Hayes - trailed Samuel J. Tilden by 264,292 votes in the 1876 election
    • Benjamin Harrison - trailed Grover Cleveland 95,713 votes in the 1888 election
    • George W. Bush - trailed Al Gore by 540,520 votes in the 2000 election
    • A possible addition to this list is John F. Kennedy, who may have trailed Richard Nixon in the 1960 election. The precise gap in votes is difficult to determine because voters in Alabama were not given Kennedy as an option on their ballot - they could only vote "Democratic", without choosing a candidate. So, when the Democrats won Alabama, half of the state's electoral votes were pledged to Kennedy, and the other half were not pledged at all, and those votes all went to Harry F. Byrd. So it is impossible to know how many of those voters meant to vote for Kennedy, or for Byrd. The margin between Kennedy and Nixon was smaller than the number of Democratic votes in Alabama. The official figure from the U.S. government states includes the Alabama votes in Kennedy's total, giving Kennedy the popular plurality.
  • Eleven Presidents have been elected fourteen times without a majority of popular votes (but with a plurality of popular votes):
  • Two Presidents have been elected without a majority of electoral votes, and were chosen by the House of Representatives:
    • Thomas Jefferson - finished with same number of electoral votes as Aaron Burr in the 1800 election
    • John Quincy Adams - trailed Andrew Jackson by 15 electoral votes in the 1824 election
  • Eight Presidents took office without being elected to the Presidency, having been elected as Vice Presidents and then promoted from that position:
    • Four of them did not run to succeed themselves, and were never elected president.
      • John Tyler - Assumed the Presidency on the death of William Henry Harrison, did not run in the 1844 election
      • Millard Fillmore - Succeeded Zachary Taylor, did not run in the 1852 election
        • Fillmore did run for President in the 1856 election as a Know Nothing Party candidate and received 873,053 votes (21.6%), finishing third
      • Andrew Johnson - Succeeded Abraham Lincoln, did not run in the 1868 election
      • Chester A. Arthur - Succeeded James Garfield, did not run in the 1884 election
    • The other four later ran for president, and were elected to succeed themselves as president:
      • Theodore Roosevelt - Succeeded William McKinley, elected to succeed himself as president in the 1904 election
      • Calvin Coolidge - Succeeded Warren G. Harding, elected to succeed himself as president in the 1924 election
      • Harry S. Truman - Succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected to succeed himself as president in the 1948 election, but did not run again in the 1952 election, despite being eligible for a third term.
      • Lyndon B. Johnson - Succeeded John F. Kennedy, elected to succeed himself as president in the 1964 election, but did not run again in the 1968 election
  • One President, Gerald Ford, was never elected but was appointed Vice President by Richard Nixon (with approval from Congress) upon the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, succeeded to the Presidency after Nixon's resignation, and was defeated in the 1976 election by Jimmy Carter. He remains the only President neither elected as President nor as Vice President.

Past and future Presidential electionsEdit

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit

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