Who is the Best President in U.S. History?

atkins bookshelf triviaWhat better way to celebrate Presidents’ Day than to review and reflect on the list of the best U.S. presidents as ranked by presidential historians. C-SPAN’s academic advisors (Douglas Brinkley, history professor at Rice University; Edna Medford, history professor at Howard University; and Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and author) reached out to historians and other professional observers of the presidency and asked then to rate each U.S. president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times. Each quality was ranked on a one through ten scale (one means not effective; ten means very effective) and tallied to arrive at each president’s total score.

The presidential survey has been conducted in 2000, 2009, and 2017. In each survey, Abraham Lincoln was consistently ranked as the best president in U.S. history. For two of those surveys, George Washington was ranked as the second best president. Richard Norton Smith notes: “The golden age of the American presidency, according to this survey, is 1933 to 1969. Five presidents from this era each rank in the top 10 which tells you something about the criteria that historians tend to use. It reinforces Franklin Roosevelt’s claim to be not only the first modern president but the man who, in reinventing the office, also established the criteria by which we judge our leaders.” Since historians prefer to judge a president’s legacy from an objective distance, Trump’s tumultuous, topsy-turvy, twittery presidency will not be evaluated nine to ten years from now. Here is the ranking of the presidents of the United States:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
6. Harry S. Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Lyndon Baines Johnson
11. Woodrow Wilson
12. Barack Obama
13. James Monroe
14. James K. Polk
15. Bill Clinton
16. William McKinley Jr.
17. James Madison
18. Andrew Jackson
19. John Adams
20. George H. W. Bush
21. John Quincy Adams
22. Ulysses S. Grant
23. Grover Cleveland
24. William H. Taft
25. Gerald R. Ford Jr.
26. Jimmy Carter
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Richard M. Nixon
29. James A. Garfield
30. Benjamin Harrison
31. Zachary Taylor
32. Rutherford B. Hayes
33. George W. Bush
34. Martin Van Buren
35. Chester Arthur
36. Herbert Hoover
37. Millard Fillmore
38. William Henry Harrison
39. John Tyler
40. Warren G. Harding
41. Franklin Pierce
42. Andrew Johnson
43. James Buchanan

Read related posts: What are the Perks of Being a President of the U.S.?
What is the White House Worth?
Thomas Jefferson the Inventor
Random Fascinating Facts About Presidents

For further reading: https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2017/?page=overall

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