The president of the United States serves as the chief executive and commander of the armed forces, all defined in Article II of the Constitution as the executive branch. Join a group of middle schoolers on a tour of Washington, D.C. as they learn about the Constitution and what it means to be "We the People." The "We the People" videos are produced in collaboration with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
We the People – The White House
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC News:
It is one of the most famous addresses in the world. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House.
NBC NEWS Announcer: From the president's office in the White House in Washington, D.C.
WELKER: Since 1800, every president has called it home. And presidents have been at the center of events that have changed the course of our nation and the world.
Pres. LYNDON JOHNSON: We shall overcome.
Pres. RICHARD NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
Pres. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated.
WELKER: Today, we join a group of middle schoolers to learn about the office and how it serves We the People.
BERNARDO LAVIERI (National Park Service): Who lives and works in the White House? The president of the United States lives and works in the White House.
WELKER: The president serves as the chief executive and commander of the armed forces, all defined in Article II of the Constitution, as the executive branch.
Pres. BARACK OBAMA: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
Pres. JOHN F. KENNEDY: Any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack.
MATT COSTELLO (White House Historical Association): When we look to the Constitution, the duties and responsibilities of the branches are laid out in the first three articles. And the second is delegated to the executive branch, the office of the president of United States.
STEVE LIVENGOOD (U.S. Capitol Historical Society): They also needed someone to have a central viewpoint and to provide the leadership that's necessary even when people have the power. And so that is the executive.
Pres. KENNEDY: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.
Pres. RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
COSTELLO: It's the president's job, the executive branch's job, to enforce legislation.
Pres. DWIGHT EISENHOWER: Under the law, I yesterday issued a proclamation calling upon the mob to disperse.
WELKER: But the executive can't do it alone. Much of what the president tries to do needs the approval of We the People, represented in Congress.
Pres. JIMMY CARTER: And I'm asking the Congress specifically to reaffirm this agreement.
LIVENGOOD: They limited the power of the executive and made it subordinate to the Congress, to the legislative branch, and so the executive can only do those things that the Congress gives them the power to do.
Pres. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: I ask that the Congress declare a state of war.
COSTELLO: The president is allowed to appoint cabinet secretaries, they can exchange opinion in writing, they sign and veto legislation, they can appoint executive officers, they can seek treaties with foreign nations.
WELKER: But even these actions must be either approved by Congress, or Congress can override a presidential veto.
LIVENGOOD: It takes a two-thirds vote. It has to be very significant. And so it's rare. But, in fact, the Congress can override the president.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: The START II treaty with Russia will cut our nuclear stockpiles by another 25 percent. I urge the Senate to ratify it now.
Pres. OBAMA: I put forth a number of ideas for how to improve the Affordable Care Act.
COSTELLO: It's the only office in the United States where all American citizens have the ability to vote for who will hold it.
Pres. REAGAN: Our Constitution is a document in which we the people tell the government what it is allowed to do.
Pres. DONALD TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump…
Pres. OBAMA: I, Barrack Hussein Obama…
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I, George Walker Bush…
Pres. CLINTON: I, William Jefferson Clinton…
Group: …do solemnly swear…
Pres. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: …that I will faithfully execute…
Pres. REAGAN: …the office of president of the United States…
Group: …and will to the best of my ability…
Pres. CARTER: …preserve…
Pres. NIXON: …protect…
Pres. JOHNSON: …and defend…
Group: …the Constitution…
Pres. EISENHOWER: …of the United States."
Group: So help me God.
Pres. REAGAN: We the people are free.
Just what exactly does the president do all day?
The evolving power and enlarging scope of responsibilities have made the modern presidency a very big job. Some even say that it is impossible for one person to handle it all.
White House, Executive Branch, President, Article II, Constitution, Leaders, Chief Executive, POTUS, Checks and Balances, Separation of Powers, Government, Congress, Legislative, Legislature, Veto, Matthew Costello, White House Historical Association, Steve Livengood, National Park Service, U.S. Capitol Historical Society