Presidents, We Have Presidents!

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It seems that the original purpose of the President's Day national holiday has gotten somewhat lost along the way. Originally implemented by an act of Congress in 1879 to honor George Washington's February 22nd birthday, it shifted to the third Monday in February in 1971, ensuring that the holiday to honor perhaps the most important single person in United States history never falls on his actual birthday. Congress later expanded the holiday to "President's Day," a nod to Abraham Lincoln who was also a February baby.

These days, while it is a federal government holiday, states, schools, and businesses respect the day somewhat randomly, which is a darned shame. So we have set out to reclaim President's Day, and not just for George and Abraham, but for all of the great, and less than great men who have served their nation in that august office.

Let's start with George Washington…while he certainly gets his due as the "Father of the Country," his actual accomplishments in office are sometimes glossed over in favor of nonsense about cherry trees and wooden teeth. Students can review the critical role that Washington played in the formative and treacherous early days of the Republic in Early Foreign Policy. In this detailed Interactive Tool, students investigate the nation's struggles to separate itself from Europe, while dealing with increasing volatile politics at home.

Early Foreign Policy - Interactive Tool QL #1257

Early Foreign Policy - Interactive Tool QL #1257

SAS Curriculum Pathways features extensive resources that detail the career and accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln. Middle school teachers may want to begin with Causes of the Civil War, an Interactive Tool. Students examine the historical record to chronicle the growing rift between North and South, the rise of Lincoln as a national figure, and his attempts to avoid the conflict.

Causes of the Civil War - Interactive Tool QL #1337

High school students can extend this investigation with Lincoln and the Civil War, a detailed examination of the president's policies and decisions during the conflict. Critical issues such as secession, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, the suspension of habeaus corpus, and the Second Inaugural Address are examined through historical narrative, including images, interactive activities, and primary source documents.

Lincoln and the Civil War - Interactive Tool QL #1260

Additional investigation of Lincoln's presidency includes an Inquiry examining the Emancipation Proclamation and even an English Language Arts Tool-based Lesson, Abraham Lincoln Shows How to Choose Strong Verbs. Let's face it, Honest Abe was a heck of a writer.

SAS Curriculum Pathways' coverage of the nation's highest office does not end with these two titans. Here is a quick list of additional resources that review the course of the American presidency, from Washington to Bush, both father and son.

Andrew Jackson:
Jackson and the Nullification Crisis
Theodore Roosevelt:
America: World Power
The Progressive Era: The Standard Oil Monopoly
Woodrow Wilson:
Wilson's Fourteen Points
World War I: The Versailles Treaty
Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
African Americans and the New Deal
FDR and the New Deal
World War II: Japanese Internment
World War II: The Homefront
World War II: Yalta and Poland
Harry S. Truman:
Civil Rights: Desegregating the Military
Cold War: The Truman Doctrine
John F Kennedy:
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Lyndon Johnson:
Johnson and the Vietnam War
Richard Nixon:
Nixon and the Watergate Scandal
Ronald Reagan:
End of the Cold War
George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton:
NAFTA: Free Trade and the American Economy
George W. Bush:
The Electoral College

Several other resources cover presidential eras or topics that span multiple presidents:
The Turbulent 1960s
The War Powers Act
Postwar Presidential Comparison Charts

Our new Explore! Primary Sources tool has more than 70 presidential speeches, letters, and documents.

And finally, this English Language Arts resource looks at presidential rhetoric:
Analyzing Public Speaking

So happy birthday George and Abe, and happy historical inquiry students and teachers!

Follow SAS Curriculum Pathways's board Presidents on Pinterest.

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About Author

Ralph Moore

Ralph Moore coordinates and conducts professional development for Curriculum Pathways. He works with schools and organizations around the country and has presented at conferences for organizations such as the National Council for the Social Studies and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. A former army officer and social studies teacher, he spent 10 years on the Curriculum Pathways humanities team creating new digital curriculum products.

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