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Lesson 23: What Is the Role of the President in the American Constitutional System?

Lesson Purpose

The president of the United States is among the most powerful political figures in the world. In the international realm the president speaks for the country and is the symbol of America. At home the president suggests the policy agenda for Congress and is the leader of his or her political party. Americans look to the president for leadership, while at the same time fearing the concentration of political power in the executive branch. This lesson examines sources of presidential power and ways that checks and balances limit presidential power.

When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain the president's constitutional responsibilities and how the office of president has evolved. You also should be able to identify various constitutional and political checks on the president's power. You should be able to explain fundamental differences between the office of prime minister in a parliamentary system and the American presidency. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues involving the exercise of presidential power and the relationship between the president and the other branches of government.