As we enter into the home stretch leading up to the presidential election, we've been thinking a lot about the men that have come before. Everyone has an opinion about who they think led the country to great things and who dug it into a hole the next guy in line had to try to fill. Earlier this year Ken Burns, the much-lauded documentarian, wrote a book he's been talking about around his house for years--Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents. Each of the 44 United States presidents is covered--their personality, their legacy, and the state of the nation during their tenure. After doing all this research into developing an intimate understanding of each of these men, I wondered who Burns would consider his favorites and why. Here are his picks:
- George Washington: Without Washington there wouldn’t have been the others. He set the bar.
- Abraham Lincoln: His is our greatest president. He saved the country during our biggest crisis, the Civil War, and left a legacy of poetic words that have provided us shelter ever since.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt: He expertly handled two of the three great crises of our nation—the Great Depression and the Second World War.
- Theodore Roosevelt: He brought an energy and muscularity to the office and to politics, feeling that government had an obligation to be a balancing force between labor and corporations.
- Thomas Jefferson: Though his presidency is not particularly distinguished, this advocate of small central government doubled the size of the country with his acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase—the greatest land deal in history.
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