The list author says: "Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt are consistently rated the three greatest presidents of the United States. Who do you think were the best presidents? This list averages the rankings from the 2009 C-SPAN survey of American presidential historians, USPC survey of 47 UK scholars of American history and politics, 2005 Wall Street Journal poll of scholars, and 2008 New York Times poll of analysts. LINCOLN showed extraordinary leadership during the Civil War, including the Gettysburg Address, saving the Union, resolving the issue of slavery expansion westward, and abolishing slavery, including the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment. "The indispensable man" WASHINGTON was the army commander during the Revolutionary War and set extraordinary precedents as the first president. FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT (FDR) led the WWII Allies to victory in World War II over Hitler and forged a post-war vision of freedom and security. And FDR led America through the Great Depression, introduced economic reforms to prevent another depression (SEC, FDIC, Fed Reserve Board), and created Social Security, unemployment insurance, FHA, rural electrification, Fair Labor Standards Act, CCC, thousands of infrastructure investments, and GI Bill, leading to decades of stable middle class prosperity. The robust yet brainy THEODORE ROOSEVELT accomplished conservation, trust busting, Panama Canal, and much more. JEFFERSON drafted the Declaration of Independence, achieved the Louisiana Purchase, and transformed the American Revolution into Jeffersonian democracy. TRUMAN waged the Cold War, concluded WWII, and advanced desegregation. EISENHOWER was a cold warrior but presided over peace and prosperity. REAGAN advocated free markets, ended the Cold War peacefully with Gorbachev, and played a role in the fall of the Soviet Empire under BUSH Sr. WILSON achieved modern policies, such as Federal Reserve, and envisioned internationalism. POLK expanded USA borders to the pacific."
"#1 LINCOLN: Lincoln's life tells a good tale of America: Born in a log cabin to a common family, pursued an education, worked hard, cared about the American ideals, and wielded power in their defense. Lincoln quipped, "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him." When the war ended, Lincoln called for "malice towards none; with charity for all.""
"LINCOLN used brilliant skills to abolish slavery and preserve the nation dedicated to the idea that "all men are created equal." He expanded presidential powers to confront the crisis, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, articulated the Gettysburg Address, signed the Homestead Act, and achieved the 13th Amendment. Wise leadership."
"LINCOLN said, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal... This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..." After the Union victory, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments transformed the Constitution. The 14th was revolutionary. It was a new birth of freedom."
"This Pulitzer Prize-winning book explains the struggle over slavery climaxing in civil war. Slavery expansion westward led to civil war. At first LINCOLN only opposed slavery expansion, but then he achieved the 13th Amendment abolishing all slavery. He said, "If the people over the river had behaved themselves, I could not have done what I have.""
"#2 WASHINGTON: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. As first president, “the indispensible man” set important head of state traditions. He could have served for life but transitioned power uneventfully. His character and stature brought legitimacy to the new US government and presidency."
"General WASHINGTON led the American forces during the Revolutionary War for eight years and won the war despite unfavorable odds. He presided over the Constitutional Convention; his mere presence helped win ratification. He was the only president elected with 100% of the electoral votes (twice)."
"WASHINGTON and a group of other talented Americans, sometimes with differing opinions, orchestrated the American Revolutionary War. Washington was not a great tactical general, but he was a great leader with steady judgment. He was also a smart businessman and rich."
"#3 FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT. This book won the Francis Parkman Prize. FDR led USA through the Great Depression to victory in WWII over Hitler. FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." His Four Freedoms and Atlantic Charter forged a post-war plan for world freedom and security. His fireside chats build a close bond with Americans. FDR pulled USA from isolationism to a superpower."
"The New Deal reversed the Depression. FDR took office after 3 years of Depression under Hoover and the Republicans, 10,000 banks had failed, half of mortgages were in default, wealth was concentrated in the few, and money flow was constricted. FDR stopped the financial collapse, established market safeguards, and created stability and unprecedented prosperity for a broad middle class for decades."
"This book won the Pulitzer Prize. World War II was an era of great change. FDR said, “We must be the Great Arsenal of Democracy.” He skillfully led USA to victory in World War II. He made the right strategic moves and made the fewest mistakes of any world leader. He forged a post-war plan for freedom and security. Eleanor Roosevelt championed human rights and was a ground-breaking first lady."
"This book won the Pulitzer Prize. FDR created Social Security, GI Bill, SEC to regulate finance, FDIC to end bank panics, CCC, infrastructure investments, FHA for lending rules and middle class mortgages, rural electrification, unemployment insurance, Fed Reserve Board, Fair Labor Standards Act, farm supports, won WWII, atomic bomb, UN, post-war vision for security and freedom, and Bretten Woods."
"#4 THEODORE ROOSEVELT: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. T.R. used the "bully pulpit" to lobby his issues to the public. He was a conservationist and expanded the national parks. Trust-buster. Opened corporate books to inspection. Passed safe food laws. Hepburn Act regulated railroad. Argued that government should regulate corporations and the "malefactors of great wealth." Achieved Panama Canal."
"T.R. was larger than life and very popular. He was a tough guy yet a brainy author; progressive yet conservative; a rich man yet promised a Square Deal for workers; nationalistic and militant yet won the Nobel Peace Prize; a Harvard man yet loved the rough frontier life; saw the value of business bigness yet was a trust-buster; robust yet an intellectual."
"#5 JEFFERSON wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was a writer, farmer, inventor, scientist, philosopher of liberty, diplomat, governor, V.P., secretary of state, president, architect, designed Monticello, founded the University of Virginia and designed the campus, advocated education, achieved the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark Expedition, and Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom."
"JEFFERSON deeply believed in individual liberty, feared tyranny, and entrenched his democratic ideals into the fabric of America. He promoted the separation of church and state. He vocally opposed slavery, yet he owned slaves and later defended it by espousing states' rights. He opposed Hamilton's nationalistic economic ideas and imposed a misguided embargo."
"JEFFERSON's Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights... Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." After the revolution, Jefferson changed USA from a republic to a democracy. Federalists, led by Hamilton, clashed with different – sometimes better -- ideas."
"#6 TRUMAN: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Truman waged the Cold War against Stalin. His Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine, NATO, and Berlin Airlift saved Europe. He exposed waste during WWII as senator and became vice president. He handled the Korean War, desegregated the military, battled segregationists, ended a disruptive strike, and sought Fair Deal policies."
"TRUMAN was forced to confront tough decisions, such as the invasion of Japan and atomic bomb. He said, "The buck stops here." TRUMAN waged the Cold War and implemented containment. EISENHOWER continued containment and avoided a hot war. JFK managed the Cuban Missile Crisis. REAGAN relentlessly pressured USSR but embraced the reformer Gorbachev and they ended the Cold War peacefully."
"#7 EISENHOWER was the Supreme Allied Commander in WWII. As president he was a cold warrior, contained USSR, and avoided a hot war, including not intervening in East European rebellions. His presidency was a period of peace and prosperity. He kept New Deal safeguards but emphasized free markets. He balanced the budget, built the Interstate Highway System, and enforced Supreme Court desegregation."
"Popular IKE presided over a period of peace and mild prosperity during the Post-War Era. He entrenched New Deal reforms as permanent, but emphasized business, and extended infrastructure investments with the Interstate Highway System. He waged the Cold War and rejected isolationism. His stature allowed him to resist reactionary policies. Stopped Korean War. A progressive conservative."
"#8 REAGAN had an optimistic view of the American Dream and free markets. Following stagflation, Watergate and Vietnam War, "the Great Communicator" reinvigorated America with "peace through strength" military build-up, firm diplomacy, some deregulation, and huge tax cuts leading to huge deficits, prosperity, and Savings and Loan fiasco. "The Teflon President" survived many scandals."
"REAGAN hastened the end of the Soviet Empire. He pressured the “evil empire” USSR and encouraged East Europe rebellion. When Gorbachev brought reforms to USSR, Reagan embraced him as a friend and pushed him further. Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize and Ronald Reagan Freedom Award. Reagan wrote that he was not trying to undo the New Deal, but tried to reduce misguided regulation and welfare."
"#9 WILSON was a world statesman. He led America in World War I to make the "world safe for democracy" after first keeping USA out. He won the war, proposed a 14-Points post-war plan “to end all wars,” created the League of Nations, won the Nobel Peace Prize, but failed to persuade Congress to join the League, refusing to compromise. Agreed to punitive German reparations in Treaty of Versailles."
"WILSON was a PHD scholar of government, president of Princeton, and a rigid crusader for just policies. He achieved Clayton Antitrust Act, FTC, lower tariffs, graduated income tax, direct elections of senators, the right of women to vote, and the Federal Reserve Act (improved later by FDR). He was an internationalist with an active foreign policy. Born a southerner, he increased segregation."
"#10 POLK expanded U.S. borders to the Pacific. He shrewdly negotiated the Oregon Territory from Britain. He won the Southwest Territory and California through war with Mexico. He was a hard worker and died soon after leaving office. The issue of slavery expansion to the new territories intensified and lead to the Civil War."
"#11 JACKSON was a vibrant leader of the common man. Jacksonian Democracy. He introduced political campaigns to expand political participation by citizens. He moved US from a republic to democracy. He neutralized the nullification crisis and preserved the Union. He destroyed the Bank of U.S. in the Bank Wars, causing inflation, depression and long-term instability."
"#12 KENNEDY: Vigor and vision. JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."Bright policy-making. Managed the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sent man to the moon. Achieved Peace Corps and Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Sought civil rights, Medicare, the arts, tax cut, and War on Poverty. "I am a Berliner" speech. MAD policy. Bay of Pigs fiasco. Escalated Vietnam."
"Political scientists rate KENNEDY highly for his executive decision-making process and policy-making. He was a voracious learner and a terrific listener. He then possessed a charismatic leadership style that inspired a generation. He made mistakes early but learned and improved. His assassination was tragic and unforgettable. JFK’s unachieved policies were enacted by LBJ."
"#13 LBJ achieved the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and Medicare. After winning the biggest popular vote landslide ever, he enacted the huge Great Society, including college loans/grants, K-12 programs (school lunches, special ed, aid to poor districts, etc.), Head Start, Fair Housing Act, affirmative action, Model Cities, NEA, PBS, DOT, HUD, Wilderness Act, and clean air/water/soil laws."
"This book won the Pulitzer Prize. LYNDON JOHNSON was a shrewd political genius. He passed JFK's "New Frontier" and more. He enacted Immigration Act, War on Poverty (misguided welfare), consumer protections, medical research, and Keynesian tax cut. He waged the Vietnam War and then downplayed the quagmire, leading to a "credibility gap." Economic boom led to inflation. Space program advocate."
"#14 JOHN ADAMS: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Adams was a leader of the American Revolution, a great political thinker advocating a Republic form of government, a skillful war diplomat, and America's first vice president. As president he avoided war with France, despite XYZ Affair, appointed Chief Justice John Marshall, and adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which tarnished his presidency."
"The leaders of the American Revolution, including ADAMS, succeeded brilliantly despite varying views. Their differing ideas about direction of the new country profoundly shaped the new nation. After the Revolution, American politics separated into the Federalist and JEFFERSON camps, and American history unfolded as an empire of Jeffersonian liberty. Representative democracy unexpectedly emerged."
"#15 MONROE was Jefferson's aid and Madison's secretary of state. He presided over the Era of Good Feelings and the Missouri Compromise. He settled the US-Canada border as far as the Rockies, achieved the Rush-Bagot agreement, proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine (devised by J.Q. Adams), and acquired Florida (a process begun by Jefferson). Not a brilliant mind but served his country well."
"#16 MCKINLEY: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. McKinley solidified power by northern Republicans during the Gilded Age. He supported tariffs, raising them sharply in Congress and causing a recession but moderated as president. A semi-imperialist, he won the Spanish-American War and brought USA onto the international stage. Despite his pro-business policies, he began early antitrust actions."
"#17 MADISON was "the Father of the Constitution" because he was the main architect of the Constitution. His thinking was brilliant and he was shrewd. He served as Jefferson's secretary of state. His presidency had mixed results, becoming mired in the War of 1812. Following the war, his moderate policies lead to stability and a sound economy. He was a slavery protector."
"#18 CLEVELAND was honest and hard-working. He uncovered corruption, vetoed hundreds of wasteful bills, achieved civil service reform and enacted Interstate Commerce Act. He suppressed the Pullman Strike and protected business interests. Despite his reserved demeanor, he married a woman 28 years younger (in a White House ceremony) and they happily had five children (including Baby Ruth)."
"#19 CLINTON: Era of highest prosperity. Balanced budget. Reduced deficit. Tax increase. More trade. Moderate-left restored Democratics. NAFTA. Yugoslavia military intervention. Expanded NATO to East Europe. Managed Haiti crisis. Welfare reform. Family and Medical Leave Act. Safe Drinking Water Act. Americorps. Brady Bill. Waco. Botched healthcare bill. Lewinsky/Jones impeachment. Pardons scandal."
"#20 JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: This book won the Pulitzer Prize. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS and others, like Henry Clay, promoted infrastructure investments for the frontier and business, building America's economy. The United States transformed from animal power to steam power to industrial giant."
"#21 BUSH SR: Former UN Ambassador, CIA chief, and ambassador to China. Malta Summit with Gorbachev. Skillfully managed USSR collapse. Built international coalition to Iraq after Kuwait invasion. Invaded Panama. Americans with Disabilities Act. Proposed NAFTA. Huge budget deficits. Recession."