Presidents Day: Characteristics that Made These Men Great

To mark Presidents Day, Yahoo! News asked politics aficionados from Yahoo! Contributor Network to look back at previous chief executives and extract the top achievements and failures that help inform today’s political climate. Below is one writer’s perspective.

Car dealerships are salivating right about now as they prepare for one of their biggest selling days of the year — Presidents Day on February 20.

Forgotten, however, on Presidents Day are the 44 men in our nation’s history to sit in the Oval Office. Also dismissed, or rarely thought of, are the inherent characteristics this small club of men possessed in order to be elected to the highest political office.

With elections right around the corner, there are a multitude of attributes voters to consider. Here are a few that are more commonly thought of:

Lincoln’s honesty

There’s no question which commander-in-chief comes to mind when the words “president” and “honesty” are put in the same context — Abraham Lincoln.

Much of Lincoln’s “honest” reputation came before he officially entered service as president in 1861. As an attorney in Illinois, the 16th president served the poor and the rich. The difference is he would often recognize the struggles of the poor and determine a rate, if any, for the individual.

An assassin’s bullet stripped away the possibility of seeing what more he could do as the country approached Reconstruction.

Washington’s integrity

Moral character and rectitude, as well as his status as a war hero, is what made George Washington the first president of the United States. When the Articles of Federation were not living up to its intent, Washington set out to change the government at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia.

A colleague urged Washington to become king of the United States, but the colonies spent six long years fighting to get out from under a monarch and he resisted. The result was the presidency. To further reject the idea of prolonged rule, Washington only served two terms in office.

Teddy Roosevelt’s strategic vision

The United States can thank Teddy Roosevelt for national parks, but his mark on the presidency was how he transformed the office to what it is today. He broadened the power of the president in order to do greater good for the people — within the law, of course.

The United States was a little more than a century old, but wasn’t really regarded as a global player. Roosevelt expanded the Navy, began construction on the Panama Canal and successfully negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

Franklin Roosevelt’s Intelligence

The ability of a president to make sound decisions during tough times is another important characteristic. Franklin D. Roosevelt inherited a crumbling economy and 13 million unemployed Americans in 1932. Through his New Deal, he was able to get the economy going again and people back to work.

His second biggest mark came prior to the country’s involvement in World War II. He tried to keep America neutral, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed that. He successfully guided the country through World War II.

There are many different attributes that stand out among presidential candidates. Many contenders have lost elections because they lacked one or more of these qualities.

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