Roles of the President

The president of the United States must, in fact, take on at least seven different roles, five of which are constitutionally defined:

• Chief of State — The ceremonial head of the government.

• Chief Executive — The CEO of the United States, wielding power in both domestic and foreign affairs while leading one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, which currently has a budget exceeding two trillion dollars.

• Chief Diplomat — The individual who sets America's foreign policy and acts as the spokesperson for the United States with foreign powers.

• Commander-in-Chief — The head of the armed forces.

• Chief Legislator — The administrator who creates an agenda for public policy and endeavors to get it approved by Congress.

• Chief of Party — Though not listed in the Constitution, the head of their political party once they take office.

• Chief Citizen — The person who represents the people and their interests economically and otherwise.

Obviously, it can be extremely difficult for any one person to fulfill all of these roles effectively.


Being president is a task that requires stamina and vision. It is not a job for the weakhearted. As John F. Kennedy said: “No easy problem ever comes to the president of the United States. If they are easy to solve, somebody else has solved them.”

In fact, each president has had his own strengths and weaknesses. For example, some presidents, like Harry S. Truman, enjoyed the trappings of the presidency and reveled in their role as the ceremonial head of the government; others, like Thomas Jefferson, shunned this type of public attention and were often mistaken for common people. Richard Nixon spent much of his time in office building relationships with the Russians and the Chinese in his capacity as chief diplomat, while George Washington argued against foreign entanglements and in favor of neutrality.

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