Who’s your favorite U.S. president, and why?

The official federal holiday being observed today is Washington’s Birthday. Minnesota law calls it Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday, but many people – as well as stores and businesses — just call it President’s Day. Today’s Question: Who’s your favorite U.S. president, and why?

  • Clark

    Ronald Reagan- No contest. He was not an elitist like Obama or Clinton. He understood citizens could make America great if only the government would get out of the way. He understood that unions were destructive and, if given a chance, would wreck the economy and private enterprise. Most of all he understood the Soviet Union communists were lying liars and could not be trusted.

  • Garyf

    What Clark said.

    For RR, everyday wasn’t a campaign speech, like our current President. RR knew what he believed in and didn’t care what the rest of the world or the media thought.

    My mom said, stick to your beliefs and doing the right thing no matter what the other kids say, even though it’s not popular.

  • Mike

    No question it is Woodrow Wilson. His two terms redefined the role of the presidency as it relates to congress and the public. Moreover, his critical assessment of the nature of the European powder keg and how peace should be brought, not only turned out dismayingly accurate, it typified the most intellectual and thoughtful approach to diplomacy and international affairs yet undertaken.

  • kennedy

    George Washington

    He lead the Continental Army in winning the fight for our independence. During that time he was also a diplomatic leader, fostering critical alliances among states and with France. He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted our Constitution. He is the only president to receive 100% of the electoral college vote.

  • David

    Al Gore. Out of everyone who has been elected president, he did the least harm.

  • James

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    He was the greatest U.S. President for many reasons. He saved not only his own country during the depression, creating the New Deal to help with unemployment, something Hoover flat out refused to do, but he saved the allied nations by sending military supplies to them to put Germany’s raid to a halt for the time being. Once the U.S. entered the war he lead us successfully through it helping the Allies win WWII. He started the United Nations, which obviously became one of the most successful international organizations in the world, and he created Social Security, a program still in place after 70 years. Beat That

  • Steven

    It’s a toss-up betwee George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

    By stepping down at the end of his second term rather than clinging to power, which he easily could have, Washington set a precedent that has defined the American presidency ever since. Without his example, it’s likely that some president in the ensuing centuries would have become a tyrant, and we would have lost our republic.

    By his exercise of the office of the presidency, Lincoln made America a better country by working to abolish slavery and strengthen the union, even in the midst of the Civil War.

  • http://s Wayne

    Take your pick: Washington or Licncoln. As Steven said in the above entry, Washington could have stayed longer and become much more powerful. Lincoln for saving the union, obviously.

    As for Willson, he would go to the bottom third of my list because of his racial attitudes. Let’s face it, the man was a bigot.

    I would put Reagan in the middle of the list because he gets too much credit for ending the cold war. Had it not been for Mrs. Thatcher, and Gorbachev, we might still be in the cold war. Reagan also disassembled environmental policies that had been put in place by Carter. Had those policies remained, we would not being experiencing many of our energy/environmental problems today.

  • garyw

    Richard Nixon: Opened the door to China, took us off the gold standard, ended the ground war in Vietnam, had very high personal standards. Had a health care proposal even Ted Kennedy , before his death, said we should have carried through with. He supported NASA to themoon. Supported environmental legislation. He did not leave a legacy of huge national debts. Did not do the job for personal wealth gain.

  • Elliot

    James K. Polk – We owe the American West to his single term. He is probably the least known great American president.

  • trebor

    Anyone who thinks Reagan was that great of a president doesn’t know their history very well. He was a good president and a pivotal one but not one of the great presidents. The guy who said Nixon was the greatest is just trying to be a partisan hack. Nixon may have done some important things but when the bad that you do far out weighs the good, you can’t be considered for any honors.

    We were very lucky in this country to have had 3 truly GREAT presidents in a row with Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. Between the 3 of them, they did so much to save this country from capitalism, communism, fascism and itself that they can be credited for saving capitalism and democracy and for much of the worlds prosperity of the last 50 years.

    Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson are almost universally ranked as the top 3 in that order and rightly so, but in my life time (40 years) Clinton was clearly the best. Longest economic expansion, minimal amount of war, declining poverty roles, the only period of middle class wage growth in 40 years and BUDGET SURPLUSES!!! What’s not to like?

    Ok, there was the hummer but, lets be honest. Most people really like those too.

  • Roger

    I would go with Lincoln and FDR, who each in their own times preserved the United States against dissolution, revolution, and defeat. They also spoke to and re-articulated America’s highest values–a commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Like the rest of us mortals, neither was perfect, but boy were we lucky they were there when we needed them! They continue to be moral and political touchstones for our country.

  • jessica Sundheim

    Lyndon Baines Johnson is my favortie President. Unlike Lincoln he went after Civil Rights Legislation because he truly believed it was the right thing to do even though he’d grown up with racism. He was the first President to look back at legislative history and discover the importance of the first one-hundred days and use that to his advantage to pass legislation that would help the poor not his wealthy, Texan oil buddies. Johnson served both in the House and the Senate and knew how to negotiate and get legislation passed better than any one else – ever. He could be vulgar and he made mistakes but his intent was to do what was right. Unfortunately, he was lead astray by his zeal for campaigning, the need to win over the Goldwater crowd, and by his Vietnam advisors. Despite those fallicies, I love him. Although racism still exists, I believe LBJ is the only President that could finally and most definitively pass the legislation that put an end to slavery and its guises in America.

  • Becker

    George Washington hands down. He wanted to step down after his first term and was forced to take a second term by the electorate. Douglas Adams said it best, “anyone able to get themselves elected president should on no account be allowed to do the job.” Those who seek the oval office are too easily corrupted by its power. Unfortunately, my generation had to watch this happen twice with both George W. Bush and now our current president.

  • Benjamin

    Am I allowed to pick none? The importance of the office of the president has been overblown, and all of them were primarily motivated mostly by the interests of the elites of their times.

    I do like that McKinley kept the Philippines after the Spanish American war by “God told him to”, though.

  • Larry C

    George W. Bush….

    just kidding

  • Kirsten Mebust

    I actually agree with Jessica about Johnson, although I couldn’t say he was my favorite. I’m fond of failures, big, noble, idealistic, intelligent failures. I think Jimmy Carter is probably my favorite. Possibly it’s because I was young and when I campaigned for him I believed in political solutions fervently, possibly because he’s proved over and over again that his heart and his head really are connected and bigger than his lust for power, possibly because he has offered the world more compassion, negotiation, health, and peace as past president than all the subsequent presidents put together did during their collective terms, and possibly because until maybe the current one, he has been the only true feminist. Lots of presidents packed intellectual power and pragmatic gusto. Carter showed us we can use politics to love the world. I wish more of us wanted to do that.

  • http://minnesota.publicradio.org/publicinsightjournalism/ comment sent to MPR

    Comment texted to MPR:

    My favorite president is Teddy Roosevelt because he put the american people (and future generations) ahead of big business interests. -John Leopold, Thief River Falls

  • Glenn


    Ronny prooved that the office can have an idiot sitting there and the country still runs!! G2 should be thankful!

  • Lawrence

    The greatest President in United States History was Abraham Lincoln. He freed slaves, he preserved the Union, and his actions led Republicans to modernize the South and the West after his death. However, in general, most of our Presidents had some serious flaws to accompany their successes. For example, although FDR stopped Japan and Germany, and got America back to work, he did know Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor. Likewise, even though George Washington was our first President, he didn’t like Natives or Slaves. Reagan is well liked because he made middle America gain some control over integration, inflation, and the loss to Vietnam. But in general, Reagan spent way too much money, his actions led to 2 recessions, he had the CIA conduct military operations all over the globe without notifying Congress, he bankrupted several farmers, and he allowed Wall Street to play fast and loose without oversight.

  • Sue de Nim

    The question asks about “favorite” not “greatest.” My favorite is the current occupant, Barack Obama. It’s way too soon to say how great he will have been.

  • chris

    is a tie between the adams guys