It has been my humble privilege to meet six American presidents and seven first ladies. I’ve been able to conduct extensive interviews with five of those presidents. I served as an adviser to two of them, served on senior staff in the White House with one of them and co-authored a book with another.
My wife and I have entertained two presidents in our own home, one of them on multiple occasions and we have been in the personal homes of several others. I have traveled on Air Force One, Air Force Two, commercial aircraft, private jets, Winnebago’s, and have ridden up front, sitting next to the president on multiple occasions in those famous motorcades, zooming through the streets with sirens blazing. I even went to Disneyworld with a president and first lady and ate at the Chinese restaurant at Epcot Center.
Here is my very subjective list of the top ten greatest presidents in American history. I would like to see your list in the comments below and would love to weigh in on the discussion.
Counting backwards, here we go.
Number Ten. James K. Polk. He annexed Texas, the Southwest, the Oregon territory and actually bought the state of California from Mexico. Make no mistake, he was a tough customer who played fast and dirty to get it all done.
Number Nine. Dwight Eisenhower. During his presidency America was the richest and most powerful nation on earth.
Number Eight. Andrew Jackson. He disrupted a rigged system, fighting against a second national bank and for a while, he drained the swamp.
Number Seven. Theodore Roosevelt. A letter day Andrew Jackson, he broke up the crony capitalism that was strangling the free enterprise system of his day. He gave us the national parks. He built a modern navy and then built the Panama Canal to make it effective on two oceans. But he used a heavy hand to get it all done.
Number Six. Harry Truman. Unlike Barack Obama, Harry Truman assumed responsibility for everything he did and actually had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” Tough and honest, he used the nuclear bomb to end World War Two and arguably saved the lives of millions more.
Number Five. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He may have presided over the largest transfer of wealth in world history.
For 100 years the British had practically ruled the world with oil, timber, gold and diamonds flowing into its treasuries. But after Hitler conquered Europe, Britain needed arms. Only America could supply the demand and FDR insisted on hard currency, gold, for every purchase. America rocketed out of the Great Depression.
Only when Britain had coughed up the last nugget from the last closet did FDR agree to loan the Brits money to buy even more.
Number Four. Thomas Jefferson. His Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. He was a co-author of the Declaration of Independence and his ideas on liberty changed the world. Jeffersonian principles are still debated by politicians to this day.
Number Three. Abraham Lincoln. Modern revisionist historians have trouble with Lincoln’s loose interpretation of the Constitution. Other’s complain that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation left a million slaves still in bondage. But no one can deny that Lincoln saved the union and he is for all time, the great emancipator, the man who freed the slaves.
Number Two. George Washington. The Constitution did not offer detail in defining the role of the chief executive. Washington defined it by his actions. The people wanted him to be their king but he would not have it. He served two terms and then walked away from power. Nobody does that.
Number One. Ronald Reagan. One could argue that Washington made us what we are and Lincoln saved the union. But Ronald Reagan saved mankind. He ended the Cold War and freed us from the danger of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Nobody else saw it coming.
Historians said we were headed into a communist era. Media was frightened by Reagan’s bravado and provocative rhetoric. They were outraged when he referred to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.” But Reagan believed in America and believed in freedom. He spoke and the Berlin Wall came down.