President Obama’s various roles in comparison to those of two previous presidents

Students will observe a sample of three US Presidents’ daily schedules in order to categorize each of the eight roles the President fulfills in the course of his day. A sample of a daily schedule of President Harry S. Truman will provide the worksheet to lay the basic concepts. A primary source activity will include the close reading of selected portions of a replication of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s schedule of April 14th, 1967. Finally, a sample of a day in the schedule of President Obama will be examined. In addition to categorizing his duties, a comparison of the three presidents’ schedules will employ students’ emerging skills of historical thinking, questioning, and analysis.

Historical Background

“Article II of the US Constitution outlines the powers and duties of the President as head of the Executive Branch including the powers to enforce laws, make treaties, propose laws and the budget, make appointments, issue executive orders, pardon, present the State of the Union address and serve as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.” (pg.26 of the curriculum guide) As the schedules of three US Presidents are compared, students will look for similarities and differences, with the purpose of exploring if and how the duties of the President have evolved to accommodate changing public perceptions of the “common good”.

Lesson Objective

Students will assess the functions of each of the eight roles the President of the United States performs in the course of his daily schedule by viewing samples of three Presidential schedules and categorizing each entry. Students will then discuss and determine to what extent the president’s roles and duties have changed, and discuss reasons why change may or may not have occurred by completing a BCR.



  1. Warm-Up Word Splash: Ask the class, “What are some of the duties of the President of the United States?” Write down their responses, correct and incorrect. Ask if the President has any limitations; write them in a separate splash.
  2. Teacher will distribute to students The Executives chart; explain that the President has roughly eight basic roles. The President is the Chief Citizen, Chief Administrator, Chief Executive, Chief of State, Commander in Chief, Chief Legislator, Chief Diplomat and Chief Political Party Leader. Each of the roles has powers and/ or duties.
  3. Students will begin with a re-creation of a morning in President Harry S. Truman’s schedule, presented on a worksheet with the eight roles on top. As a class, read the duties and determine which role or roles are demonstrated.
  4. Next, the students will view selections of a four page primary source material: of President Lyndon B Johnson’s schedule of April 14th, 1967. The President was out of the country that day, in Uruguay. Class will read in silence for a minute, then the teacher will ask what they observe about the document, and how it is different from the Truman schedule.
  5. An important entry from LBJ’s schedule is found on page 4a, where there is some editorializing on the seating arrangement and Ecuadorian President Arosemena’s reaction to it.
  6. Another primary source: “Summit Triumph for LBJ” can be used to document past problems between the two presidents. The Ecuadorian President felt the US was spending too much money on the Vietnam War instead of offering aid our neighbors to the south. He later apologized.
  7. Describe the powers associated with each role. Use the following questions for discussion:
    • How is each item on the President’s schedule an example of the role that you have chosen?
    • Are you surprised with anything you see, or is it what you expected?
    • Which role is the most important? Why?
    • Are there differences in the schedules that may indicate changes in the public perception of the “common good?”
    • What are some of the differences in the sample schedules of President Obama and President Truman?
    • How is President Johnson’s schedule different?
    • Who may have written President Johnson’s schedule?
    • Are there personal feelings expressed?


Brief Constructed Response:

Which of the roles of the President is the most important? Why? ECR- Which of the three presidents had the hardest job? Based on these documents, what are some of the challenges presented to one president that the other two don’t seem to have had? Does your background knowledge of these three presidents and the times in which they presided over the US provide more information?


BCR/ECR serves as assessment. Refer back to Word-Splash warm-up to remove any incorrect suppositions. Make adjustments as necessary. Also, the eight roles can be taken into consideration when preparing to study roles of Governor, then mayor, or county executive.


The length of the writing assignment is variable. This is an inclusion class, so a sentence starter form will be provided for those students requiring one.


Pearson, Drew. “Summit Triumph For LBJ.” Tuscaloosa News, April 20, 1967.,3474159

“President’s Schedule – January 9, 2012.”

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