Presidential Power and Influence
The learners will trace how executive power is derived and used in this country, and evaluate its potential for influencing change in the nation.
Focus Question: How can our voice be used to make communities stronger?
The learner will:
- describe the powers granted to the President of the United States by Article II of the Constitution.
- identify roles of the President through the exercise of his duties.
- evaluate Presidential influence on the nation.
- describe the changing face of philanthropy in the nation.
- Copies of The Constitution of the United States (in textbook)
- Roles of the President (Attachment One)
- National Council for the Humanities. The White House Conference on Philanthropy: Gifts to the Future. South Carolina ETV, 14 minutes, 1999. Videocassette. Available through Michigan Middle School and High School Media Centers and Public Libraries. (Video is no longer available.)
Ask students to watch, read or listen to the news when they go home. They should write down any story that referred to an action of the President and select which Presidential role was being enacted. Share this information at the beginning of the second class period.
- National Council for the Humanities. The White House Conference on Philanthropy: Gifts to the Future. South Carolina ETV, 14 minutes, 1999. Videocassette.
(Available through Michigan Middle School and High School Media Centers and Public Libraries. Note: Video is no longer available.)
- Report on the conference is available at the following URL:
United We Serve: Government website providing resources about service and volunteering: www.serve.gov
White House Office for Public Engagement : https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ope
Explain to students that the Constitution gives executive power to the President. Refer students to Article II, Sections 2 and 3. Read these out loud to give students a clear idea of the work of the President.
Ask students if they have heard the President described by any other titles or "roles." If students know of these "roles" let them share each role name and examples of its related responsibilities. Explain the following examples:
- Chief Executive: In this role the President is acting as the administrative head of the government. These duties include meeting with the cabinet, signing bills, issuing executive orders and appointing heads of departments and other government officials.
- Chief Diplomat: In this role the President is negotiating on behalf of the United States with foreign governments. The President can appoint ambassadors, make treaties, and support or oppose the actions of other nations.
- Chief of State: The President is the ceremonial head of the United States, speaking to the nation on topics of interest, meeting with important officials, and welcoming Heads of State from other countries.
- Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces: The President is the civilian head of the military and can order troops into battle or send them overseas.
- Chief Legislator: The President recommends legislation to Congress. The President can also threaten to veto bills s/he opposes.
- Head of the Party: The President can reward those who are loyal to the political party with jobs and support other candidates for public office.
Arrange the class into small teams of three. Distribute the handout Roles of the President . Ask students to refer to the duties of the president and place them in the chart according to presidential role. When sufficient time has elapsed to allow the class to have completed the task, go over the answers together and add any significant tasks of the president that may have been omitted from the list on the chalkboard.
Ask students to watch, read or listen to the news when they go home. They should write down any story that referred to an action of the president and select which presidential role was being enacted. If possible, the student should compare answers with a parent or guardian and discuss differences of opinion.
Ask students to share information from their homework assignment. What roles were most identified by students? Ask why they think this role was so significant during the previous day?
Explain that one of the most important roles of the president is Chief of State where the president acts as the ceremonial head of the United States. One of the actions s/he may take is to speak to the nation on topics of interest.
(This video is out of print. If you do not have the video,skip to the next bullet point.) Tell students that they are going to view a short video called The White House Conference on Philanthropy: Gifts to the Future, sponsored by the President and Mrs. Clinton. Define philanthropy (individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world). Ask students to watch thevideo and be prepared to answer the following questions: "Of all the things the President has to do, why did he sponsor and speak at this function?" and "How was he acting as Chief of State?" Show the video.
President and Mrs. Obama view philanthropy and civic engagement as critical to the success of our democracy. View this two-minute video about the importance of engaging the public in decisions and taking action for the common good: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ope. The video is on the White House site under "Office of Public Engagement." In addition, the Obamas started a website that connects people with service opportunities: www.serve.gov. Explore the stories and speaches on this website and demonstrate howpeople can use the search tool to find volunteer and service opportunities in their area.
After viewing the film and/or websites, have students review what they learned. Discuss following questions: "Of all the things the President has to do, why did he sponsor and speak about service?" and "How was he acting as Chief of State?" (Note: Students' answers may include that the President felt that philanthropy was so important to the country that he wanted to put the weight of his office behind it to encourage more giving from the nation. They may also say that the President wanted to give recognition to the work of philanthropists from every walk of life, religion and race by bringing them to the White House and bringing them to the attention of the country. Another answer might be that the President wanted to use the power of the government to help philanthropy improve.) Have students evaluate the importance of the President in influencing the actions of American citizens.
One of the important aspects of service for our world is related to "young people and philanthropy." How did thepresident show that young people can play an important part in philanthropy? Ask the class to discuss how a volunteer group of young people, working alone or together, can act for the common good.
Refer to the Preamble to the Constitution. Read it out loud. Ask students to decide if the president of the United States was helping to carry out the purposes set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution by acting as Chief of State and sponsoring the White House Conference and Office of Public Engagement.
Working in their teams of three, have students design a poster for one of the Presidential roles. Posters should include the name of the role, its description, and several examples of powers the President has in the role. Graphics should be included to make the ideas easy to understand and colorful. Ask students to write an imaginary (or real) letter to the President of the United States, explaining the importance of his role as Chief of State and evaluating the effect of the White House Conference on Philanthropy. Conclude the letter with a statement on the importance of young people in philanthropy.
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
Benchmark MS.2 Name a local community foundation and describe its broad purpose.