Rating the Presidents: The Best, Worst, and All the Rest

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Encore Presentation
(Includes Live Professor Q & A!)

Ranking the presidents has been called the ultimate parlor game. Indeed, Americans have a penchant for ranking all things. But there are some unique challenges to rating presidential performance. In this program, we will explore the creation of the presidency by the Framers and the challenges of the office, take an insider’s look at the polls by leading historians that rank the presidents, and share some stories behind the greatest (and failed) presidents.

The lecture will include a discussion of the debates that surround the president ranking polls and the lessons learned from success and failure in the White House. Leadership skills are certainly necessary for a president to succeed. The more skills possessed, the more likely Congress will pass their policies. This is one way that presidents are judged and evaluated. In modern times, a president’s legislation has been judged according to the impact his policies have on social equality in U.S. society. The U.S. public looks to presidents as their political and economic leaders. They are held responsible for the political and economic climate, whether times are good or bad. Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush are recent presidents who lost their bids for reelection due to economic decline. At the same time, a booming economy can get a president reelected even if he is facing personal scandals, as Bill Clinton demonstrated in 1996. According to a recent poll of historians, these were our 10 best Presidents:

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. George Washington
  4. Theodore Roosevelt
  5. Harry Truman
  6. Woodrow Wilson
  7. John F. Kennedy
  8. Thomas Jefferson
  9. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  10. Lyndon B. Johnson


Curiosity Stream and One Day University


College of Arts and Sciences