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Top 10 Presidents of the United States of America

VO: Rebecca Brayton
The United States of America has had its share of heads of state and government throughout its history. Some of them have been considered "good," some "bad," while others have people undecided. For this list, we considered presidential accomplishments that had a lasting, positive impact, as well as the leaders’ ability to inspire. We excluded presidents after George W. Bush because we felt there’s been insufficient time to evaluate their long-term effectiveness. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 U.S. Presidents.
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They were some of America’s most influential heads of state and government. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 U.S. Presidents.

For this list, we considered presidential accomplishments that had a lasting, positive impact, as well as the leaders’ ability to inspire. We excluded presidents after George W. Bush because we felt there’s been insufficient time to evaluate their long-term effectiveness.

#10 – James Monroe (1817-1825)


This Founding Father believed in unity rather than divisiveness. As president, he attempted to decrease political tensions by disregarding party associations during his nominations, thereby launching the “Era of Good Feelings.” While he expanded the American territory with the Treaty of 1818 and the Purchase of Florida, it’s the Monroe Doctrine’s freeing of the Western Hemisphere from European domination that’s most entwined with his legacy.

#9 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963)


This Pulitzer Prize-winning president may not have served a full term, but JFK still earns high ranks among the public. Known for his inspirational speeches, Kennedy made history for publicly condemning racism. Along with his civil rights initiatives, he fought communism, helped resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis and supported the creation of the NAVY SEALs. Also notable was his commitment to the Space Race and sending a man to the Moon.

#8 – Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)


While he supported slavery and forced Indian removal, Jackson was also extremely important because of his democratic reforms. As a strong advocate for liberty, he had the masses in mind when he moved to break up the Second Bank of the U.S., which he felt only worked to the advantage of the elite. Old Hickory also paid off the National Debt, instituted the modern strong presidency and helped resolve the Nullification Crisis.

#7 – Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)


Though he served as a five-star General during World War II, Eisenhower’s foreign presidential efforts mostly focused on peace: he brokered a truce in the Korean War and supported the diplomatic use of nuclear weapons. He also signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which permitted the eventual construction of the Interstate Highway system, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and increased the country’s commitment to space research, which ultimately gave birth to NASA.

#6 – James K. Polk (1845-1849)


Polk accomplished a great deal in just one term: he negotiated the Oregon Treaty with the UK and expanded the United States’ borders to the Pacific following the Mexican-American War. This acquisition of territories like California, Texas and more set the stage for long-term growth of the American economy. Polk was also involved in the establishment of the Department of the Interior, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Naval Academy.

#5 – Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)


Teddy’s a Progressive icon due to his sweeping Square Deal reforms, efforts to end the Russo-Japanese war and macho but charming personality. He became president following William McKinley’s assassination, but Roosevelt was elected for a second term based on his own merits. He quickly endeared himself to Americans by advocating policies for the middle-class. The Nobel Peace Prize winner also asserted the U.S. as a world power with the Panama Canal and the Great White Fleet.

#4 – Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)


This Founding Father wrote the Declaration of Independence’s first draft. As president, he helped increase the country’s power and protect trade by purchasing Louisiana from France. His vision of a nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific led him to commission the first American expedition to cross the western U.S.: the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Despite the fact that he owned slaves, Jefferson is considered a symbol of liberty for publicly opposing the practice.

#3 – George Washington (1789-1797)


Before becoming President, Washington fought for freedom by successfully leading the American Revolution against the British Empire. Then, as one of the Founding Fathers, he brought people together by championing liberty and nationalism. America’s first President was also instrumental in drafting the Constitution and setting precedents for office, including the appointment of a Cabinet and limiting his own power by stepping down after two terms.

#2 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945)


Thanks to the New Deal’s relief, recovery and reform programs, FDR helped bring the U.S. out of the Great Depression and into a period of rapid growth. These programs appealed to and attracted many minorities and served as the origins of America’s current Social Security program. Roosevelt also led his people through the Second World War by working with Britain’s Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin.

#1 – Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)


He went from being a poor, self-taught country lawyer to the man that led the nation during the Civil War. After proclaiming the Emancipation Proclamation, Honest Abe cemented the abolition of slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment. The inspirational orator also helped ensure the Union government didn’t fall apart, strengthened the country’s finances and set the foundation for the First Transcontinental Railroad with the Pacific Railway Acts.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your top American president? For more informative top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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