President of the United States

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The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the United States in the president and charges him with the execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory, and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances. Since the founding of the United States, the power of the president and the federal government have grown substantially and each modern president, despite possessing no formal legislative powers beyond signing or vetoing congressionally passed bills, is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of his party and the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. The president is frequently described as the most powerful person in the world.

Quotes[edit]

  • PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom—and of whom only—it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, p. 266 (1948). Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish-watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as President of the United States.
    • Attributed to The Chicago Times, following President Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863; reported in Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), vol. 2, p. 472; no date of issue for the Times is given. This quotation also appears in Robert S. Harper, Lincoln and the Press (1951), chapter 33, p. 287, also without a specific date for the Times, citing only Sandburg. This same quotation and attribution is used in Gore Vidal, Lincoln, part 3, chapter 2, p. 494 (1984, reprinted 1985). This quotation could not be found in The Chicago Times, November 20–25, 1863.
  • And still the question, "What shall be done with our ex-Presidents?" is not laid at rest; and I sometimes think Watterson's solution of it, "Take them out and shoot them," is worthy of attention.
    • Grover Cleveland, letter to William F. Vilas, April 19, 1889; Allan Nevins, ed., Letters of Grover Cleveland, 1850–1908 (1933), p. 204 (1933). Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal for fifty years, feared that a president's ambitions would lead him to seek a third term and then life tenancy. Because any other position after the presidency would seem anticlimactic, Watterson believed the country was not safe from any president while he was alive. He especially worried about Theodore Roosevelt, a young president who greatly enjoyed the presidency, and he frequently editorialized on this theme during Roosevelt's second term, though the remark was facetious. Joseph Henry Wall, Henry Watterson (1956), p. 254–55.
  • But I believe this: by and large, the United States ought to be able to choose for its President anybody that it wants, regardless of the number of terms he has served. That is what I believe. Now, some people have said "You let him get enough power and this will lead toward a one-party government." That, I don't believe. I have got the utmost faith in the long-term common sense of the American people. Therefore, I don't think there should be any inhibitions other than those that were in the 35-year age limit and so on. I think that was enough, myself.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, answer to question seeking his views on limiting U.S. presidents to two terms, news conference, Washington, D.C. (October 5, 1956), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, p. 862.
  • If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan platform. I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman—my dear wife—as I begin this very difficult job.
    • Gerald R. Ford, remarks on taking the oath of office (August 9, 1974); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 1.
  • I once told you that I am not a saint, and I hope never to see the day that I cannot admit having made a mistake. So I will close with another confession. Frequently, along the tortuous road of recent months from this chamber to the President's House, I protested that I was my own man. Now I realize that I was wrong. I am your man, for it was your carefully weighed confirmation that changed my occupation. The truth is I am the people's man, for you acted in their name, and I accepted and began my new and solemn trust with a promise to serve all the people and do the best that I can for America.
    • Gerald R. Ford, address to a joint session of Congress (August 12, 1974); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 13.
  • I do believe that the buck stops here, that I cannot rely upon public opinion polls to tell me what is right. I do believe that right makes might and that if I am wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. I do believe, with all my heart and mind and spirit, that I, not as President but as a humble servant of God, will receive justice without mercy if I fail to show mercy.
    • Gerald R. Ford, announcing his decision to pardon Richard Nixon (September 8, 1974); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 103.
  • The second office of this government is honorable & easy, the first is but a splendid misery.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry (May 13, 1797), Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1896), vol. 7, p. 120.
  • And so it is that I carry with me from this State to that high and lonely office to which I now succeed more than fond memories and fast friendships. The enduring qualities of Massachusetts—the common threads woven by the Pilgrim and the Puritan, the fisherman and the farmer, the Yankee and the immigrant—will not be and could not be forgotten in the Nation's Executive Mansion. They are an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, my hopes for the future.
    • John F. Kennedy, address to the Massachusetts legislature (January 9, 1961); reported in Congressional Record (January 10, 1961), vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169.
  • Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us" but he will say to you "be silent; I see it, if you dont."

    The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.
    • Representative Abraham Lincoln, letter to William H. Herndon (February 15, 1848); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 1, p. 451–52.
  • In a certain sense, and to a certain extent, he [the president] is the representative of the people. He is elected by them, as well as congress is. But can he, in the nature [of] things, know the wants of the people, as well as three hundred other men, coming from all the various localities of the nation? If so, where is the propriety of having a congress?
    • Representative Abraham Lincoln, remarks in the House (July 27, 1848); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 1, p. 504.
  • My friends—… I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail.
    • President-elect Abraham Lincoln, farewell address at Springfield, Illinois (February 11, 1861); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 4, p. 190. "W. H. Lamon, who witnessed this scene of farewell, says: 'having reached the train he [Lincoln] ascended the rear platform, and, facing the throng which had closed around him, drew himself up to his full height, removed his hat, and stood for several seconds in profound silence…. There was an unusual quiver on his lip, and a still more unusual tear on his furrowed cheek…. At length he began in a husky tone of voice, and slowly and impressively delivered his farewell to his neighbors. Imitating his example, every man in the crowd stood with his head uncovered in the fast-falling rain.'" In John G. Nicolay and John Hay, eds., Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (1905), new and enl. ed., vol. 6, p. 110.
  • You have heard the story, haven't you, about the man who was tarred and feathered and carried out of town on a rail? A man in the crowd asked him how he liked it. His reply was that if it was not for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.
    • Abraham Lincoln, response to a friend from Springfield asking how he liked being president, (c. 1861), in Emanuel Hertz, Lincoln Talks: A Biography in Anecdote (1939), p. 258–59.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt is no crusader. He is no tribune of the people. He is no enemy of entrenched privilege. He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President.
  • I think it absolutely necessary that the President should have the power of removing [his subordinates] from office; it will make him, in a peculiar manner, responsible for their conduct, and subject him to impeachment himself, if he suffers them to perpetrate with impunity high crimes or misdemeanors against the United States, or neglects to superintend their conduct, so as to check their excesses.
    • James Madison, remarks in the House (May 19, 1789), Annals of Congress, vol. 1, col. 387.
  • "Why would anyone want to be President today?" The answer is not one of glory, or fame; today the burdens of the office outweigh its privileges. It's not because the Presidency offers a chance to be somebody, but because it offers a chance to do something.
    • Richard Nixon, television address on NBC and CBS (September 19, 1968), in Nixon Speaks Out, Major Speeches and Statements … in the Presidential Campaign of 1968 (1968), p. 1.
  • When I am the candidate, I run the campaign.
    • Richard Nixon, remarks during an interview with representatives of the television networks (January 4, 1971), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1971, p. 21.
  • Representative William McK. Springer, remarks in the House, quoting Henry Clay: "As for me, I would rather be right than be President."
    Reed: "Well, the gentleman will never be either."
    • Thomas B. Reed, reported in Samuel W. McCall, The Life of Thomas Brackett Reed (1914), chapter 21, p. 246.
  • The Presidency is not merely an administrative office. That's the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership. All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.
  • My view was that every executive officer, and above all every executive officer in high position, was a steward of the people bound actively and affirmatively to do all he could for the people, and not to content himself with the negative merit of keeping his talents undamaged in a napkin. I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of the departments. I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power. In other words, I acted for the public welfare, I acted for the common well-being of all our people, whenever and in whatever manner was necessary, unless prevented by direct constitutional or legislative prohibition.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography (1926; vol. 20 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 10, p. 347–48.
  • Our loyalty is due entirely to the United States. It is due to the President only and exactly to the degree in which he efficiently serves the United States. It is our duty to support him when he serves the United States well. It is our duty to oppose him when he serves it badly. This is true about Mr. Wilson now and it has been true about all our Presidents in the past. It is our duty at all times to tell the truth about the President and about every one else, save in the cases where to tell the truth at the moment would benefit the public enemy.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, "Lincoln and Free Speech", The Great Adventure (1926; vol. 19 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 7, p. 297.
  • The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, "Lincoln and Free Speech", The Great Adventure (1926; vol. 19 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 7, p. 289.
  • Yes, Haven, most of us enjoy preaching, and I've got such a bully pulpit!
    • Theodore Roosevelt, reply to George Haven Putnam, who had accused him of a tendency to preaching, sometime during his first presidential term, in George Haven Putnam, introductory essay, The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (1926), national ed., vol. 9, p. x.
  • The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment—social, political, or ethical—can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.
  • Ike has picked a cabinet of eight millionaires and one plumber.
    • T.R.B. (Richard Strout), "Washington Wire", New Republic (December 15, 1952), p. 3. The plumber was secretary of labor Martin Durkin of Chicago, head of the Journeyman Plumbers and Steamfitters Union. See William Safire, Safire's Political Dictionary (1968), p. 195–96.
  • The President can exercise no power which cannot be fairly and reasonably traced to some specific grant of power … in the Federal Constitution or in an act of Congress passed in pursuance thereof. There is no undefined residuum of power which he can exercise because it seems to him to be in the public interest.
  • But the PRESIDENT is the Chief Executive of the nation as well as a party leader, and it has been objected that for him to take an active and overt part in influencing the choice of party candidates derogates from the dignity of his high position and is almost a constitutional impropriety.
    • The Times, London, editorial about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign in the South to influence voting in the forthcoming primary elections (August 16, 1938), p. 13.
  • There has been a lot of talk lately about the burdens of the Presidency. Decisions that the President has to make often affect the lives of tens of millions of people around the world, but that does not mean that they should take longer to make. Some men can make decisions and some cannot. Some men fret and delay under criticism. I used to have a saying that applies here, and I note that some people have picked it up, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."
  • When contemplating General Eisenhower winning the Presidential election, Truman said, "He'll sit here, and he'll say, 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating".
    • Harry S. Truman, in Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power, the Politics of Leadership (1960), p. 9.
  • You know, the greatest epitaph in the country is here in Arizona. It's in Tombstone, Ariz., and this epitaph says, "Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest." I think that is the greatest epitaph a man could have. Whenever a man does the best he can, then that is all he can do; and that is what your President has been trying to do for the last 3 years for this country.
    • Harry S. Truman, remarks in Winslow, Arizona (June 15, 1948); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1948, p. 356.
  • The legislative job of the President is especially important to the people who have no special representatives to plead their cause before Congress—and that includes the great majority. I sometimes express it by saying the President is the only lobbyist that one hundred and fifty million Americans have. The other twenty million are able to employ people to represent them—and that's all right, it's the exercise of the right of petition—but someone has to look after the interests of the one hundred and fifty million that are left.
    • Harry S. Truman, speech to the Press and Union League Club, San Francisco, California (October 25, 1956; at p. 19–20 of transcript.
  • I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently because Lyndon Johnson is my President. For I know he lives and thinks and works to make sure that for all America and indeed, the growing body of the free world, the morning shall always come.
    • Jack Valenti, special assistant to the president, address before the Advertising Federation of America convention, Boston, Massachusetts (June 28, 1965), Congressional Record (July 7, 1965), vol. 111, Appendix, p. A3583.

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External links[edit]

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