Have you ever dreamed of being president of the United States? You’ll have to wait until you’re 35, according to the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution also says you can’t be president unless you were born in the United States.
The president is elected by voters across America. Before deciding to run for election, it’s a good idea to know what the duties and responsibilities of the president are. Although presidents have a lot of power, they also shoulder quite a heavy burden.
WHAT IS THE PRESIDENT’S JOB?
The president heads up the executive branch of the U.S. government. The executive branch is in charge of running the country and defending it from enemies. The president takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The president is also responsible for carrying out the laws of the United States.
Presidents suggest new laws. They appoint most of the country’s judges, including the judges of the Supreme Court. They are in charge of dealing with other nations. The president appoints ambassadors, who speak for America in other countries. The president also serves as commander in chief of the country’s military forces—the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Presidents cannot declare war—only Congress can do that. Once a war has started, however, the president gives the orders.
Every president has a group of advisers called the Cabinet. Each Cabinet member, except the attorney general, is called a secretary and heads a different department. The secretary of the treasury, for example, handles the country’s money supply. The attorney general is the chief law officer of the United States and heads the Department of Justice. Other secretaries deal with defense, schools, cities, and so on. There are 15 Cabinet posts in all.
HOW LONG DO PRESIDENTS SERVE?
A president is elected to serve for four years. The president may then run for one more term. When the nation was born, no law limited how many times a president could serve. By custom, however, no president ran more than twice. Then, in the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran and won four times. After Roosevelt died, a new law was added to the Constitution. It said presidents could serve no more than two terms.
CAN A PRESIDENT BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE?
Presidents who do serious wrong may be removed from office. First, the Congress must charge a president with wrongdoing. This is called impeachment. Then the president must stand trial in the Senate. If convicted, the president must step down. Two presidents have been impeached, but none have been removed as president. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. One president, Richard Nixon, quit before he could be impeached.
Five presidents have died in office. William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia one month into his first term. The other four—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy—were killed by assassins.
HOW MUCH DOES A PRESIDENT EARN?
The president earns a salary of $390,000 a year. The president receives an additional $50,000 a year for expenses. The president’s salary was raised from $200,000 to $390,000 in the year 2000.
HOW DO PEOPLE GET TO BE PRESIDENT?
To become president it’s best to become the candidate of a big political party. A political party is a group that works together to achieve shared political goals. No law says presidents must belong to a party. It’s just that it’s hard to win such a job without help. The United States has two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Every president since 1853 has belonged to one of these two parties.
Most people who run for president have first served as governor of a state or as a member of the United States Congress. Some have come from the military.
At one time, political parties chose their candidates at big meetings called conventions. Leading members of the party would get together and decide who should run. Now, most states hold primary elections before the presidential election. Citizens decide who should run from their party by voting in the primary. The political parties still have conventions. By then, their candidates have usually been chosen in state primaries. The conventions are mainly celebrations.
SOME GREAT PRESIDENTS
George Washington was the first president of the United States. He won election because he was a war hero. Washington led the American colonies to victory in the American Revolution (1775-1783). After his second term, many Americans wanted to make Washington king. He refused. In doing so, he kept American democracy going.
Another great president was Abraham Lincoln. He took office in 1861. Lincoln led the country during the Civil War (1861-1865). The war began after the Southern states broke away and tried to form a new country. Lincoln held the United States together and ended slavery.
Many people consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt one of the greatest presidents. He was first elected in 1932. He took over during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This was a time when banks and businesses were failing and many people lost their jobs. Roosevelt used the government to create jobs and help the needy. During the 1940s, he led America to victory in World War II. Roosevelt greatly increased the powers of the presidency.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta