The Presidency

The Roles of the President

1. Chief of State

Roles: This role requires a president to be an inspiring example for the American people. In some nations, the chief of state is a king or a queen who wears a crown on special occasions, celebrates national holidays, and stands for the highest values and ideals of the country. As the American Chief of State, the president is a living symbol of the nation. It is considered a great honor for any citizen to shake the president's hand.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Awarding medals to the winners of college scholarships.
  • Congratulating astronauts on their journey into space.
  • Greeting visitors to the White House.
  • Making a patriotic speech on the Fourth of July.

2. Chief Executive

Roles: The president is "boss" for millions of government workers in the Executive Branch, deciding how the laws of the United States are to be enforced and choosing officials and advisers to help run the Executive Branch.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Appointing someone to serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
  • Holding a Cabinet meeting to discuss government business.
  • Reading reports about problems of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

3. Chief Diplomat

Roles: The president decides what American diplomats and ambassadors shall say to foreign governments. With the help of advisers, the president makes the foreign policy of the United States.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Traveling to London to meet with British leaders.
  • Entertaining Japanese diplomats in the White House.
  • Writing a message or a letter to the leaders of the Soviet Union.

4. Commander-In-Chief

Roles: The president is in charge of the U.S. armed forces: the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The president decides where troops shall be stationed, where ships shall be sent, and how weapons shall be used. All military generals and admirals take their orders from the President.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Inspecting a Navy yard.
  • Deciding, in wartime, whether to bomb foreign cities.
  • Calling out troops to stop a riot.

5. Chief Legislator

Roles: Only Congress has the actual power to make laws. But the Constitution gives the president power to influence Congress in its lawmaking. Presidents may urge Congress to pass new laws or veto bills that they do not favor.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Inviting members of Congress to lunch in the White House.
  • Signing a bill of Congress.
  • Making a speech in Congress.

6. Chief of Party

Roles: In this role, the president helps members of his political party get elected or appointed to office. The president campaigns for those members who have supported his policies. At the end of a term the president may campaign for reelection.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Choosing leading party members to serve in the Cabinet.
  • Traveling to California to speak at a rally for a party nominee to the U.S. Senate.

7. Chief Guardian of the Economy

Roles: In this role, the president is concerned with such things as unemployment, high prices, taxes, business profits, and the general prosperity of the country. The president does not control the economy, but is expected to help it run smoothly.

Examples of Behavior in Roles:
  • Meeting with economic advisers to discuss ways to reduce unemployment.
  • Meeting with business and labor leaders to discuss their needs and problems.

Adapted from The Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, Scholastic Inc., 1989.