The President's Tasks & Duties

The President of the United States has a difficult job.

The President of the United States has been said to have the toughest job in the world. President Harry Truman said, “Being a president is like riding a tiger. One has to keep riding or be swallowed.”

1 The Constitution

According to the U.S. Constitution, the President is the head of the executive branch of the government. The President is Commander-in-Chief, and “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate” he has the power to make treaties with other countries and to appoint public officials, such as ambassadors. The President is to give “from time to time” a State of the Union address to Congress. Since Constitutional times, the President’s duties have expanded to include: Chief of State, Chief Executive, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Chief of Party, and Chief Guardian of the Economy.

2 Commander-in-Chief

The President can authorize the use of U.S. troops but cannot declare war without the approval of Congress. He also cannot pay for a war without the approval of Congress.

3 Chief of State

The President is the head of the government. He represents the nation and serves as its most visible leader. The President has sometimes used that power to call for a national day of fasting and prayer.

4 Chief Executive

The President nominates jurists for the federal bench and Supreme Court. Since the Supreme Court justices interpret the Constitution, the President’s appointees can change the nation.

5 Chief Diplomat

The President can negotiate treaties, but they must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. With the help of his advisers, the President sets the foreign policy for the nation.

6 Chief Legislator

The President can sign the legislation brought to him by Congress, or he can veto that legislation. Congress has the power to override a veto with a two-thirds vote. The President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress. The President can pardon someone charged with a federal crime, except in cases of impeachment.

7 Chief of Party

The President is the leader of his political party. George Washington advised us not to succumb to faction or party, but John Adams was a member of the Federalist party, and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison helped organize the Democratic-Republican party. Presidents have been party leaders ever since.

8 Chief Guardian of the Economy

One purpose of the government, according to the Constitution, is to “promote the general welfare.” That is interpreted today to mean that the President should make sure conditions are such that the economy prospers.

9 Day-to-Day Activities

Some of the things a President may do on any given day: greet visitors to the White House, read reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, travel to a foreign country for a diplomatic meeting, inspect armed forces, make a speech before Congress, speak at a rally for a party nominee, meet with economic advisers about unemployment issues and award medals to veterans.

Based in Washington state, Susan Wachtman has been writing and editing since 1980, when she worked on the "Seattle University Spectator." Now a high school English teacher, Wachtman is also a journalism and yearbook adviser who holds a master’s degree in teaching from City University.