Presidents’ Day: Celebrating the Achievements of the Modern Presidents of America

by Nektarios Donas ‘24

The President of the United States is the head of state and government and serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the military. As the head of the nation, presidents are also very influential in the US’s relationship with foreign powers, acting as chief diplomats. Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of February to commemorate our nation’s presidents. Presidents’ Day originally started in 1885 to celebrate George Washington’s birthday; however, it became a federal holiday in 1971, with the holiday’s focus shifting to all the Presidents who have served our nation. 

Presidents’ Day is an excellent time to reflect on some of the most noteworthy accomplishments of our modern-day presidents.

● Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) is considered the first modern-day president. Roosevelt, a Spanish War veteran, was best known for promoting the conservation of the environment and established five new national parks: Crater Lake, Wind Cave, Sullys Hill, Mesa Verde, and Platt, during his presidency.

● William Howard Taft (1909-1913) passed the 16th amendment, which instituted the federal income tax.

● Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) led the United States through WWI. Wilson also played an active role in the post-war period, creating the League of Nations. This international organization attempted to unite Europe to prevent future conflicts.

● Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) signed the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, which gave the president control over the federal budget.

● Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) signed the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, allowing all Native Americans born within United States territory to gain full citizenship.

● Herbert Hoover’s (1929-1933) presidency was defined by the Great Depression. His laissez-faire approach in the recession’s early days proved ineffective in improving the failing economy. However, he did make the Star-Spangled Banner the nation’s official National Anthem.

● Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), the longest-serving president in history, was responsible for the New Deal, which aided the US in its recovery from the Great Depression. Roosevelt was also an effective leader for the U.S. during WWII, the bloodiest conflict in human history.

● Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) ended WWII with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He later entered the U.S. into the Korean War to prevent the spread of communism.

● Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was the commander and general of the Allies during WWII and helped end the Korean War. Eisenhower was also an advocate for civil rights, passing a bill that protected African American voting rights.

● John F Kennedy (1961-1963) created the Peace Corps, which promoted peace throughout the world by sending citizens abroad to help the less fortunate. Sadly, he was assassinated just two years into his first term.

● Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) signed the civil rights act of 1964 to end discrimination across the nation. He took over as president after Kennedy’s assassination.

 ● Richard Nixon (1969-1974) improved relations with the Soviet Union by signing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and SALT. However, his tenure was marred by the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to his resignation.

● Gerald Ford (1974-1977) signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation, which dealt with numerous global affairs. However, his presidency was overshadowed by one of the worst economic crises in U.S. history.

● Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) created the Department of Energy to conserve energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

● Ronald Reagan’s (1981-1989) significant economic policies, such as reduced federal income tax and a tightened money supply, led to a considerable economic boost.

● George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) is likely best remembered for leading thirty-five nations into the Gulf War against Iraq.

● Bill Clinton (1993-2001) led the U.S. to its longest period of peace and economic growth by creating twenty-two million jobs and having the lowest unemployment and crime rates in years.

● George W. Bush (2001-2009) signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which attempted to provide all children with equal education opportunities.

● Barack Obama (2009-2017), the first African American president, signed the Affordable Health Care Act, which helped expand health care coverage to most Americans.

● Donald Trump (2017-2021) signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, encouraging businesses to invest domestically. This in turn led to historically low unemployment rates, especially among minority groups. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic undid much of his progress.

● Joe Biden (2021-present) has been active in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, with over 200 million Americans being vaccinated during his first 100 days. President Biden also oversaw the US’s controversial exit from Afghanistan in August 2021.