Presidential Background and Election Paper

Assignment: For this paper, choose a former president of the United States and research their background. For this paper you must use a president who served at least 50 years ago. In other words, Nixon is the most recent president that you can use [AKA SOMEONE BEFORE NIXON] … You can think of this is a brief, biographical sketch of the person. Write about their background leading up to their election to the presidency.
The most important thing is that all questions are answered in a complete and clear manner). Please use double-spacing and default margins. PLEASE USE SCHOLARY SOURCES!!


At the top of PAPER 1: [FIRST 4 PAGES] after you have written the first 4 pages put any cited sources at the bottom of it… and then start the next half of the paper by labeling it PAPER 2: [LAST 5 PAGES] at the top of it… And then put any cited information at the end of PAPER 2.

Lasty, read “Other guidelines” at the bottom of this paper.


In your paper, be sure to touch on the following questions:

Presidential Background and Election [FIRST 4 PAGES][PAPER 1]

  1. Choose a president.
    1. Because it often takes time (decades) to determine if a president was good, the president you choose has to have served at least 50 years ago.
    1. William Henry Harrison is ineligible (DON’T USE HIM)

  2. How did they become president?
    1. Biographical section of the paper
    1. What was their road to the White House?
    1. What earlier offices did they have?
    1. What was their campaign and election like?
    1. Any other details from their prior life that you think is interesting or relevant in terms of what made them become president.
    1. What kind of governmental (or non-governmental) experience did this person have prior to the presidency? Did anything in their past seemingly “shape them” to become president.
    1. Why/how were they chosen as their parties’ nominee?
    1. Why did they win?

Presidential Success [LAST 5 PAGES][PAPER 2]

  • What makes a good president?
    • There are many people who have tried to answer this question to determine what traits are desirable in a president.
    • Come up with some criteria for what makes a good president. Justify your choices for why those are important criteria.
    • A few samples: How good were they at talking to the public? How good were they dealing Congress? How adept were they at handling crisis moments? etc.
    • Choose some criteria that you think are important.
    • Justify why you chose them.
      • Most important part of this section. I am open to almost any criteria you come up with, as long as you have a well-researched/well supported/well-reasoned justification for it
  • Is the president you chose good? (why or why not?)
    • Did your chosen president have the traits/fulfill the criteria you have argued for?
      • All of them?
      • Some of them?
      • None of them?
    • Were there extenuating circumstances that harmed that president’s ability to succeed on one of those traits?
    • This should go without saying but provide evidence for why or why not.
    • Finally, does the president you chose qualify as being good or successful? Use the criteria you described in the first section and determine whether your chosen president meets all/none/some of those criteria and give a final verdict on whether or not they were good. Use examples to justify why a president does or does not meet the criteria you laid out.

Other Guidelines:

  • Remember, context is key. Not every president is playing with the same deck of cards (so to speak). Keep that in mind.
  • Be non-partisan/non-ideological: As much as possible, try to look at your chosen president objectively and not through a partisan lens. This is a research paper, not an opinion paper.
  • The purpose of this paper is to research the traits that have made successful presidents in the past and to determine whether or not a president did well given their circumstances and the issues they faced.
  • Ex. Saying that FDR is a “bad” president because you personally believe in conservatism/small government and hated the New Deal does not really satisfy the requirements of the assignment. Saying George W. Bush (if he were eligible) is bad because you personally do not like the Patriot Act is also insufficient.
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