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Presidential Primary Sources Project - 2016

2016 - Presidential Powers and the Constitution

In Article II of the United States Constitution, the nation’s Founders boldly created something the world had never seen before: a head of state whose power came not from heredity or force but from the people. Over the course of our country’s history, the power and authority of the Executive Branch has ebbed and flowed, sometimes in ways the Founders never imagined. Through the use of primary source documents and interactive videoconferencing, our 2016 PPSP program series will allow students to explore how different presidents in different eras have interpreted and exercised presidential powers.

Presidential Roles and Responsibilities

The White House House Historical Association, Washington, D.C. 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Many students are fascinated with the idea of being president, yet they know little about the real duties, powers, and limitations of the job described in Article 2 of the Constitution. Through this interactive and Constitution-based program, students will explore the various roles of the president, such as commander in chief and leader of our nation, using primary sources. This program will emphasize making important decisions while highlighting significant historical and current events.

Presidential Powers with Documents from the National Archives

The National Archives of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution defines the executive branch and specifically states the powers of the president. Students will explore and examine primary sources including: presidential appointments, pardons, treaties, and others from the National Archives that illustrate these powers.

Woodrow Wilson and the Consolidation of Presidential Executive Power

President Woodrow Wilson House, Washington, D.C.
Thursday, February 11, 2016

President Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913 and quickly revolutionized the role of the presidency in American government. Swept into office on a tide of "progressivism" that expected good government, President Wilson arrived with an agenda of domestic policy priorities: The Federal Reserve System, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, reducing tariffs and implementing a progressive income tax, the National Park Service, the eight-hour work day, and child labor laws. President Wilson consolidated the executive power of the president and changed forever the expectations that Americans have of their president and of their federal government.

PPSP Presidents' Day Event: Jimmy Carter Live

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
Monday, February 15, 2016

During this hour-long event, President and Mrs. Carter talk about the 1976 presidential campaign and take questions from the local audience and from students connected remotely to the event from Royal Valley Middle School of Topeka, Kansas and Boise High School of Boise, Idaho.

Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Hoover and the Federal Government

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, IA
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The President of the United States is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet. The Cabinet and independent federal agencies are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws.

Herbert Hoover was a champion of government efficiency for over 40 years, before, during, and after his Presidency. He was an engineer and geologist by training, and sought to apply the scientific principles of the Efficiency Movement to make the Federal government more responsive and cost effective, and to avoid duplication and waste. As Secretary of Commerce, he reorganized the Commerce Department to better serve American business and industry in a rapidly changing world. As President, Hoover created the Veterans Administration (VA) to unify all veterans services, which accounted for 25% of all Federal expenditures at the time, into one agency.

As former-President, Hoover was appointed by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to chair two Commissions on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government -- known as the Hoover Commissions -- to find ways to streamline the Federal government. Many of the ideas proposed by the Commissions were implemented by Congress, such as combining the Departments of War and the Navy into a single Department of Defense (DoD), and creating the General Services Administration (GSA) to centralize responsibility for Federal office space, transportation and other basic services vital to government operations.

Theodore Roosevelt: Selling a Precedent for the President

Theodore Roosevelt Center, Dickinson, ND
Monday, February 22, 2016. 

In this program, we observe how President Theodore Roosevelt’s actions broadened the powers of the presidency, setting a precedent for the use of executive power through the twentieth century to today. We analyze primary source evidence reflecting Roosevelt’s conservation legacy. Using these sources, students will assess whether Roosevelt’s critics, who accused him of misusing executive authority, were warranted in their judgment or if Roosevelt, who considered the president “steward of the people,” made appropriate use of power during his time in office.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Presidential Library System

Franklin D. Roosevelt Prsidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Learn about President Roosevelt and the Presidential Library system, presented by The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. 

Abraham Lincoln: Presidential Power in "A House Divided"

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, KY
Thursday, March 3, 2016

In the face of civil war, Abraham Lincoln swore to “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” How could that be accomplished in a rebellion? This presentation will include primary sources and interactive activities to explore how President Lincoln redefined presidential power during America’s greatest crisis.

Washington's Monument: The Tradition of Presidential Powers

The National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Learn about Washington's Monument and the tradition of presidential powers.

President Ulysses S. Grant and Civil Rights

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, MO
Thursday, March 10, 2016

President Ulysses S. Grant officially proclaimed the 15th Amendment, giving African Americans the right to vote, as part of the U.S. Constitution. Throughout his presidency he did much to protect both the lives and the rights of recently freed African Americans. Grant used federal powers to combat the violence and terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1875 he signed a Civil Rights Act that prohibited various forms of racial segregation.

President Truman and the Steel Crisis

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, MO
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In April 1952, President Truman issued Executive Order 10340 ordering the Secretary of Commerce to seize the nation's steel mills. This presentation will use primary source documents from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library archives to examine this constitutional crisis. Questions to be answered include why did Truman make this unprecedented decision? What was the reaction of the Supreme Court? How was the issue resolved? And what relevance does this have today?