The American Presidency: Core Documents

This collection of documents on the presidency begins with Alexander Hamilton’s commentary on the sections of the Constitution related to the executive branch and ends with President Barack Obama’s address to the nation defending his interpretation of executive authority under the Constitution to use force against the Syrian regime. The documents cover the executive’s role and the specific topics of presidential selection, term limits, and impeachment.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 3: Creating the Office of the Presidency

This lesson focuses on the arguments over the various characteristics and powers of the office of president as debated at Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, students will understand the arguments of those who supported either a strong, independent executive, or a very limited and highly controlled executive. Students will also see why, in the end, the delegates compromised.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitution Hall Pass: The Presidency (Constitution Day 2012)

Just in time for the 2012 election, this engaging, interactive lesson traces the history of the American presidency and features a special introduction by ABC News anchor George Stephaopoulos–former adviser and communications director for President Bill Clinton. Join constitutional experts and the Center’s education staff to explore why it was important for our young nation to have an executive branch, and why nevertheless some people were worried about giving it too much power.

  • Resource Type: Media, Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

George Washington and the Presidency

This short video highlights the crucial role played by George Washington in writing upon the “blank slate” of the Constitution. Washington was self-conscious about the importance of establishing principled precedents in his interpretation of Article II and what it said—or did not say—about the extent of executive power. According to Professor W. B. Allen, Washington was “conscious and deliberate” as he and his advisors gave meaning to the outline of the Constitution.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Mandate: The President and the People

The complex relationship between the presidency and public opinion is examined by leading historians, political scientists and public figures who also offer insight into the office and its occupants from George Washington to FDR.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Special Needs/Language Focus, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Emoluments Clause and the President (Civil Conversation)

The emoluments clause is a provision in the U.S. Constitution. An emolument is a profit or advantage an official gains from his or her office. The framers of the Constitution feared that ambassadors in the early republic might be corrupted by gifts from foreign countries. The framers wanted public servants to be free from outside influence.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Be Washington

Be Washington is an interactive experience in which YOU take on the role of George Washington, either as commander in chief or president. Come face to face with a leadership challenge, listen to advice from his most trusted sources, and decide how to solve the same problems Washington himself faced. Learn how Washington actually handled the situation, and see how other players voted. Play as an individual or hosts a game for a group. Lesson plans are available for each scenario. The game may be played online and is also available as an app. Visiting Mount Vernon? Make plans to play Be Washington in the Interactive Theater.

  • Resource Type: Games, Lesson Plans, Simulation
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Iran Nuclear Deal and Its Critics

In 2015, President Barack Obama’s administration struck an agreement with the government of Iran and other countries intended to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons. In May 2018, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement known as the “nuclear deal” with Iran. All the nations that signed the deal, however, advised Trump not to withdraw. What will be the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12