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Who Was Our Most Influential President?

Some go Old School with Washington or Lincoln while others like Ike or FDR. Who do YOU believe had the biggest influence on the White House and our country?

It's the week of President's Day and we're in the midst of what's turning out to be a grueling presidential primary season. So let's reflect a little and talk about who might be the most influential president in our country's history.

With such a long line of men to choose from, not to mention the increasingly polarized nature of political discourse in the U.S., it's no surprise that opinons vary widely.

About.com's list of the 10 most influential presidents features entries from across years. Abe Lincoln, FDR and George Washington take the top three spots, but the list also includes James Polk and Woodrow Wilson.

In a more modern-leaning piece, a poll done around this time last year has Ronald Reagan as the most influential president of the last 50 years.

But The Daily Kos did a top 10 list last year that was a little more, um, eclectic. It included Chester A. Arthur (who probably deserves some sort of award for his awesome muttonchops) and Richard Nixon. Yes, Richard Nixon.

They've had their say, but now it's your turn. Who would you select as the most influential U.S. President?

Mike Shortall Sr February 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM
@Pat ... I guess my reaction to the "chaos" argument would be that the chaos of 1860 - as bloody and as widespread as it was - would be preferable to the perpetual chaos of the U.S. as a club where members can come and go as they please, whenever the mood or motivation presents itself. Imagine what would be going on in this country now as Red States became inflamed over the Obamacare mandates! I doubt there is a "right answer" we would agree on. But it's an interesting topic to dwell upon.
J.R. sr February 23, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Every influential person in this world (past and present) has/ had a motivation, to some, making as much money as possible, some, attaining power. Some even write newsletters, only because someone told them they couldnt. It seems to me that he used his chips (both on his shoulders AND in his shoes) to influence in a positive way. So, I ask you, Pat Ryan, where do your chips lie?
Eric S February 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM
One thing I'm sure of...I'd like to be in a room with you people for a face to face discussion of this history we are exploring. Everyone is civil, well reasoned arguments and enough intelligence to keep things straight. Nice work folks. MH, if you ever run for office I'm moving to your district just to vote for ya!
Mike Shortall Sr February 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM
LOL ... It's funny you should mention that. You might want to keep an eye on my blog then. I'm anticipating an announcement sometime next week. Just don't sell your house and move, you really wont need to! www.crankymanslawn.com
Liberty 1 February 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM
JR sr. : Every President has done something right even Jimmy Carter (deregulation of beer making!) but you have to weigh the good and the bad. TR gave this nation a huge shove towards the Nationalistic outlook that involved us in all the overseas adventures that our forefathers warned us about, thanks Teddy. As far as my chips are concerned I usually eat them.
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Several things about Teddy R I've always admired. 1. He was a helluva police commissioner in NYC. 2. He was one of the last of a dying breed. Willing to aggitate for war against Spain, admittedly to expand America's hegemonic interests; he was also first in line to FIGHT THE WAR! You won't find THAT kind of commitment to an idea today in any politician!
Liberty 1 February 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
RR - Slavery is only a viable economic system when there are no other choices. Slavery existed almost everywhere on the earth at that time but it was essentially ended by 1907. Brazil had the 2nd. largest slave economy in the west with just a fewer number of slaves in bondage then the US but they did away with the institution in 1888(with very little bloodshed). What the final backbreaking straw was the establishment of a "free" state in northeast Brazil that allowed for a underground railroad to provide an escape. In the U.S. the underground railroad flourished even with the fugitive slave laws. The south was increasingly frustrated with the free states ignoring that law. Their voluntary withdrawl from the Union removed any protection that they used through the power of the Federal government. Confederate Vice President Stephens even stated that "slavery was much more secure in the Union than out of it." Lincolns nationalistic plans laid waste to what could have been a relatively peaceful transition to a truly free country. It is hard for people to see how much better it would be if only the more rational path was followed because as I stated earlier -history is written by the victors. But the truth will always win out in the end.
Liberty 1 February 24, 2012 at 02:14 PM
And about Ron Reagan (a great president) not being a coward. While he was solely responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union without firing a single missle, he turned tail when the Marines were killed in Lebanon so I am not sure how he would have responded to Sumter.
Liberty 1 February 24, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Mike, you are right about the lack of "commitment" (nice word for having a set) by our recent so called leaders. TR did back up his mouth that is for sure! However how many Americans died, also backing up his mouth. Thanks to all for a great discussion, it isn't often I get to indulge. Anymore my wife's eyes glaze over and my children run away!
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Pat: I have the same family issues whenever I either talk or write about the things I find interesting about American history and politics. Insofar as the deaths resulting from our "international coveting", I would state that America - becoming of age at the end of the colonial era - really was no different than any of the European powers of that time. It was what superpowers in that period. They preyed on the weaker, downward-sloping countries and whatever far-flung possessions they might have. It's very difficult to be the first emerging power to do away with or refuse a long-standing trend. Eventually we got it right ... insofar as colonization goes.
Lavender Green February 24, 2012 at 04:08 PM
This was the best article I think I have ever read on here, and it is great to have so many people with so many opinions conversing. This is what is important in the world, communication and the right to approach things in our own ways, with out discrimination and without threats or any other negative influence Thank you all.....
R. R'dson February 24, 2012 at 05:35 PM
To P.R., Which single slave was willing to wait to around 1907 for slavery to essentially end? Possibly, another 41 years of slavery! White abolitionists wanted slavery to end "yesterday". The slaves wanted slavery to end "yesterday". The average slave life expectancy from 1600 - 1860 was 21 to 22 years. Having a slave die & not be able to experience the same freedom as their surviving family was not okay.
R. R'dson February 24, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I didn't read ( :) ) that book where a slave wrote ....slaves were willing to wait peaceably for slavery's end... (oops, slaves were not allowed to read & write in the south). A slave's chronic undernourished, malnourished, whipped, or hanged body wasn't okay to continue any longer. Seeing a slave's family been split apart on the selling block wasn't okay to continue any longer. The rape of female slaves wasn't okay to continue any longer. One more millisecond of of slavery wasn't okay to continue any longer. From the point of view of white abolitionists, free blacks, ex-slaves, and slaves, it wasn't okay for slavery to continue any longer then 1865.
R. R'dson February 24, 2012 at 06:12 PM
P.R. ----- Reagan, as president of the United States of America, would not have had a choice if he was put on the spot like Lincoln. Fort Sumter is federal property! One of Reagan's two constitutional job requirements (like any president) was chief executive of the federal government. President Reagan would have declared war on the confederacy in a heartbeat!
R. R'dson February 24, 2012 at 06:24 PM
By the way, it was President Reagan who signed Dr. MlK Jr's Day into law in 1983. It was a courageous act that didn't cause him to be a one term president.
KevinF February 24, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Excellent read. Thanks everyone! It's great to read a well debated, factual discussion of politics and our history. For the record, I picked FDR.
Liberty 1 February 26, 2012 at 01:30 PM
RR - About signing the MLK Day into law - more then courageous it was the right thing to do!
Charmaine Lanzoni Yates February 26, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Woodrow Wilson the 28th president was also the governor of NJ. His accomplishments such as the passage of legislative bills to reduce the bribery of government officials, the establishment of the Public Utility Commission and the establishment of the workers compensation program are huge. This man played a significant role during an age of reform. He signed the Nurse Practice into effect in 1912, and became the creator and leading advocate for the League of Nations. He led the country into World War I, and played a pivotal role in the constitution; with the nineteenth amendment, giving woman the right to vote. He was a visionary who wrote about the comparison between the American and Parliamentary government. His strong analyses led to reform and democracy; that changed the government, to answer to public opinion. His progressive reform transferred power away from the big industry and machine politics to the people. He challenged Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” with “New Freedom”. He drew up legislative proposals and went to congress himself to present them. He created the Federal Reserve System, The Underwood-Simmons Tariff, and the Clayton Antitrust Act. He pushed for such laws as government loans for farmers and laws to prohibit child labor. Today The United Nations and collective security pacts are viewed as fulfillment of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalist vision.
Charmaine Lanzoni Yates February 26, 2012 at 01:41 PM
While I believe that most of our Presidents have accomplishments and can be recognized for their work. We often forget about the laws and who created them, which give us freedom, and make our day to day lives easier.
Liberty 1 February 26, 2012 at 02:05 PM
RR - A little out of order I am! No where I would suggest that slaves (anywhere) should wait peacefully for it to end. Slave revolts happened and was what John Brown wished to create with his misguided efforts in Harpers Ferry. While slavery was/is wrong and the life of a slave is not to be envied, their exsistence was dependent on those who "owned" their body. There were many cases of abuse, rape and hangings etc. but for the most part as property they were treated as such and taken care of, much better a slave than an indentured servant. They were restricted by law from reading and writing but many slaveowners ignored that law out of a moral (yes that is right) code or out of realizing that the value increases of the property. Jefferson's slaves were required to learn to read and the men were taught trades. Both Lee and Jackson educated their slaves and cared for them. This is not a defense for holding someone in bondage. My problem with Lincoln is he could have ended slavery with far less bloodshed and anger. No slave would be "willing to wait" around for it to end but did anybody ask those 600,000 casualties if they wanted to die or be maimed?
Liberty 1 February 26, 2012 at 02:34 PM
OHHHHHHHH NOOOOOOO! I was hoping that no one would bring him up! I guess if you like regulation and government intrusion then Wilson's your man. Personally his example should have been a lesson to Americans. Eggheads should NOT be allowed to govern.
Liberty 1 February 26, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Good point! It is the Congress that has the greater effect throgh the laws they pass. However it should be noted that freedom and having an easy life is more often opposites as history has taught us!
Charmaine Lanzoni Yates February 26, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Agreed! However I was referring to the laws and acts that have been passed to assist us with our day to day lives. They do not neccessarily make our lives easier though! LOL
Eric S February 26, 2012 at 05:29 PM
@PR.......though it's true Congress tends to be more involved in producing bills and hammering out the details, the President has a lot of power over the final enactment. He/she gets to sign or veto those proposed laws and thereby holds a high degree of influence over national direction. Overriding a veto is a daunting task for Congress particularly when it comes time for legislators to cross party lines in an override vote.
Liberty 1 February 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Hi Eric - Agreed. That is the beauty of our "American" system. The balance between the three branches is always shifting and it is when one branch encroaches on another we get into trouble. A sure sign of a problem is when one branch starts to talk about bypassing or neutralizing another or granting another branch powers that belong to them. FDR with his Supreme Court debacle and BO with the present House of Representitives, Congress granting war powers to the Chief Executive and allowing the courts to do their dirty work for them are examples that come to mind.
R. R'dson February 27, 2012 at 05:01 PM
To P.R., I now totally understand your views & that you weren't implying that slaves should have waited peacefully until slavery's end. Yes, I have also read about Jefferson's slaves been educated. Jefferson's own slaves said (in written documented proof) that they learned to read & write from Jefferson's grandchildren & that Jefferson "allowed" this. These educated slaves would also teach the others with Jefferson's acknowledgment.
R. R'dson February 27, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Yes, I agree, no one asked those 600,000 casualties that fateful question! The issues of the civil war led to this heart broken sacrifice. If I was living in those days, I might have had the honor to ask a civil war veteran this question --"when all those casualties were piling up, what made you not stop fighting? " The Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln, in my opinion, might be a summary of the American Civil War, such as: (first) ---"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this Continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
R. R'dson February 27, 2012 at 05:29 PM
(Second) ---"that from those honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion"--- (finally) ---" that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom"--
Eric S February 27, 2012 at 06:10 PM
No one needed to ask them that question. They fought for their ideaology. Most combatants, and civilians, mistakenly believed not only that the rebellion would be short lived but that it would bestow honor and glory for their efforts. No one had any idea going in that it would expand to the levels it rose to nor the sheer brutality that it would encompass. Prior wars we were involved in (1812...Mexico) were relatively short and one-sided so the picture and mental imagery of war wasn't accurate. Just as no one asked enlistees for WW2.....the reason was clear and the goal defined. And so they happily march off to war and death, they just didn't realize it involved war and death.
R. R'dson February 27, 2012 at 08:25 PM
To Eric, "They fought for their Idealogy" is absolutely right! I agree with this statement wholeheartedly & I hope that all American history teachers mentions that word "idealogy" when a mordern day student is sitting in their class learning about the American Civil War, WWII, etc.

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