Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The President's Role and Succession

Clark Youngblood
Santa Rosa District Schools


This lesson shows the role the President of the United States plays in American government and the order of succession of cabinet members.


The student understands the nature of political authority and the nature of the relationship between government and civil society in limited governments (e.g., constitutional democracies) and unlimited governments (e.g., totalitarian regimes).


-[Macgruder's American Government] by Prentice Hall, published in 1993. (Pages 314-324.)


Prepare information concerning the roles of the President and xerox a copy of the 25th amendment for the students.


This lesson is designed to help students understand about presidential qualifications and the path to becoming President and also, to state the order of Presidential succession as described in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

1. Tell the students-the Office of the President demands that many interrelated roles be filled simultaneously. Ask the students to name what they feel are the essential roles of the President, list all on the board, then in a separate column, list the eight roles of the President. They are
1) chief of state-the ceremonial head of government in the U.S.
2) chief executive- as vested by the constitution with the executive power of the United States in foreign and domestic affairs.
3) chief administrator- in charge of the largest government in the world, with nearly 3 million workers and a budget of $1.5 trillion a year.
4) chief diplomat- the designer of foreign policy and the nation's chief spokesman to the world.
5) commander in chief- in charge of the nation's military.
6) chief legislator- the main architect of public policy. (These six roles come directly from the constitution, but they do not complete the list. )
7) chief of the party- the political party that the president represents (political parties are not mentioned in the constitution , but they do play a major role in government today.)
8) chief citizen- he is expected to be the representative of all the people.

2. Ask students -In what ways do they feel these roles are interrelated-? Then present to them 2 examples --one being that of President Johnson, and how the impact of the Vietman conflict affected his presidency, and the other being President Nixon and the scandal of Watergate.

3. At this point review with the students the qualifications to be President as spelled out in the Constitution.
1) Be a -natural born- citizen, explain this to the students.
2) Be at least 35 years old .
3) Have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 consecutive years. Point out to students that these are the only 3 qualifications to be President, and nothing is mentioned about education,religious background, and family but that these are looked at closely by voters.

Ask why they feel these 3 are important to the majority of voters. List ideas on the board for discussion.

4. At this point turn your attention to the order of succession to be President if something happens to the President. Explain to the students that the 25th Amendment spells out presidential succession and this was adopted in 1967. Read and review the amendment with the class. Explain that of 42 Presidents, 14 were Vice-Presidents, and that 9 of them became President through succession. The order of succession to the Presidency is easy to follow, the order is determined through the President's chosen cabinet members and is as follows...
1) Vice-President,
2) Speaker of the House,
3) President -Pro Tempore- of the Senate,
4) Secretary of State,
5) Secretary of the Treasury,
6) Secretary of Defense
7) Attorney General
8) Secretary of the Interior
9) Secretary of Agriculture
10) Secretary of Commerce,
11) Secretary of Labor,
12) Secretary of Health and Human Services,
13) Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,
14) Secretary of Transportation,
15) Secretary of Energy,
16) Secretary of Education,
17) Secretary of Veteran Affairs.
This is the order as given in the constitution. Explain to students that in our nation's history, only the Vice-President has been used to fill the spot, and of course another Vice-President must be chosen. Also, explain that the President cannot -fire- the VP. When their terms are complete, and the President decides to run again, he may choose another VP, but they are elected to complete the terms unless Congress decides to remove either the President or the Vice-President.


Have students list the eight roles of the Presidency. Also , have them list the 17 successors (in order) to the President. Have students explain how the roles of the President are interrelated. Grading would be either acceptable or unacceptable if ALL 17 successors were listed correctly,and the eight roles of the President are each listed.
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