Politics in the United States are just as disagreeable and contentious as ever. Partisanship, inaction, and ideology reign supreme. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that there do exist strong and effective leaders that everyone can agree. Leaders like these five past presidents.
5. James Monroe, the 5th President (1817-1825)
Monroe might not be the best-remembered president coming at the tail end of some very memorable founding fathers (Washington and Jefferson, ever heard of em?).
That doesn’t mean though that he doesn’t deserve a spot here. Monroe helped America settle into its identity as a nation. He worked to smooth out remaining tensions between the States and England, and he was truly a president of the people, embarking on a nationwide tour conducting a series of town hall meetings.
4. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President (1901-1909)
Roosevelt could earn his spot here just for being the most badass president. An early advocate of the Boy Scouts of America, a “Rough Rider” in the Spanish American War, as well as an accomplished author and historian, Roosevelt was a well-rounded and vigorous human being.
Beyond his personal accomplishments, Roosevelt also established a number of government programs and institutions like the Food and Drug Administration and conservation efforts.
3. James K. Polk, the 11th President (1845-1849)
When you think of politicians, do you think honest, efficient, and humble? If you do, then it’s very likely that you have James Polk (and almost no one else) in mind.
Polk was a one-term president by choice, during which he worked actively to fulfill his campaign promises of reducing tariffs, establishing the treasury, and working to organize and establish recently acquired territories in the American West.
2. (Tie) Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President (1861-1864) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President (1933-1945)
There isn’t much to be said about these two that hasn’t been mentioned time and again. They were handed some of the worst possible scenarios that a president could face, the Civil War and the Great Depression/World War II, respectively. And they responded with consideration and aplomb, successfully guiding the US out of seemingly insurmountable conflicts. Their policies and methods might not have been perfect, but there is a reason that they remain so incredibly respected and well-liked to this day.
1. George Washington, the 1st President (1789-1797)
Washington may not end up on many ‘best of’ lists like this one. There certainly are a lot of men that have held office after him who have accomplished some pretty unique and amazing things. But when it comes to the office of the president, Washington is the standard against which all others must be measured simply because he did it first, and he did it best.
Exemplifying the role of “Commander in Chief,” Washington bravely led the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Elected unanimously, he established many conventions of the office, including the use of a cabinet system, vetoes, and…the Constitution.
Many American citizens would have been happy to live under the reign of King George, but perhaps best of all, Washington intentionally stepped away from office after two terms, making way for all the potential great leaders to come after him.
Did we miss someone? Tell us in the comments and share with your friends. Read our top 5 worst presidents next.