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Who Were the Best Presidents in Your Lifetime?

Who were the best United States Presidents in your lifetime? If you are age 80, there were 15 presidents from FDR through Joseph Biden. If you are age 30, the list starts at George H.W. Bush and there are six to choose from. Among the 15 was a president who died, an assassinated president, one who resigned, one who was not elected to that office, and one who was shot. Among the six was a Supreme Court case that decided the result, a father and son that were presidents, the first Black person and two of the oldest people elected to the office, including one who was never elected previously to any office.

Each president had a personal life and a vice president and a wife; accomplishments and disappointments; careful agendas and unplanned for events; political friends and adversaries; cabinet officials and ambassadors that supported their programs and some who did not; budgetary deficits and growing debt and one even had a surplus. The economy, taxes, tax compliance enforcement, inflation, expanding growth, trade deficits, interest rate and bond and stock market fluctuations and a few market crashes, recessions and recovery, force of nature disasters and a pandemic all causing the president to devote serious time and energy reacting to soften the negative effects and claiming credit for the successes.

Some created lasting legacies with nominating Supreme Court Justices, determining policies with long-range effects and highways and infrastructure, influencing military personnel qualifications, strengthening or weakening the United States’ position as a world leader, creating or manipulating attitudes based on how they used their bully pulpit, in the way they led and chose their lieutenants, created respect or disregard for the office and for us to each other, fostered a tolerance or intolerance for crime and too many more areas that cannot be listed in a short blog.

Some were micromanagers and some visionary thinkers, some handled crises with confidence and some with disdain, and some tidied up messes and some left unsolved problems for successors. Some started wars and others ended wars. Some left us with upbeat feelings and others created animosity among us. Our opinions are also influenced by memories of media exposure, how well the presidents articulated their ideas, dealt with Congress and other members of their and the opposing party and foreign leaders, and their personal demeanor and character.

So, who were the best presidents in your lifetime? I suggest you think about it and choose or rate the presidents as you recall what they did. I would not include Joe Biden as he is currently establishing his record throughout his term, with not enough yet done to warrant a rating.

When this question was asked of me, “Who were the best presidents in your lifetime?” I thought it would be easy, but found it hard. Also, I am influenced by my feelings about the person, their personality, and many actions that do not necessarily reflect on actual accomplishments, bringing a bias to my decisions. Historians doing this should not inject their personal prejudices, but I am not approaching this as a historian but a citizen who lived through these men’s reigns. My opinions are mine and I will not be sharing them. I suggest you develop your own opinions, and also keep them to yourself. However, if you are like me, I believe you will have a much better understanding of presidential leadership and how it affects all of us by going through this process. Approach this as an exercise that you could learn from and that will also make you more aware.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did thinking about it and writing it.

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