The 25th Amendment: Section 4 and March 30, 1981

In 2015 the Reagan Presidential Library began developing a one-of-a-kind experiential learning simulation called the Situation Room Experience.  One of the pivotal issues in the Situation Room Experience regards the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.   The 25th Amendment was ratified February 10, 1967.  Today’s blog post, from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert, is the third of a series that explores that Amendment in-depth.  The first post in this series looked at Sections 1 and 2, and the last post looked at Section 3, today’s post examines Section 4.


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From left to right James Baker, then Chief of Staff, Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada, and President Reagan having a discussion at George Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C. April 8, 1981.  Because the 25th Amendment was not invoked when the President was shot on March 30, 1981, President Reagan continued making decisions and doing the work of the President even as he recovered from his shooting in the hospital.

After President Ronald Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981, his administration prepared, but did not sign, the letters necessary to invoke the 25th Amendment, which shows how concerned they were with the possibility of having a temporary acting President until President Reagan could recover.   One of the letters is shown below,  or you can download a .pdf of the complete set of letters here.  The letter seen here would have invoked Section 4 of the 25th Amendment if Vice President George H.W. Bush and a majority of the Cabinet members had signed that letter and sent it to the Senate President pro tempore, which was Strom Thurmond at the time, and the Speaker of the House, then Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.  Continue reading

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The 25th Amendment: Section 3 and July 13, 1985

In 2015 the Reagan Presidential Library began developing a one-of-a-kind experiential learning simulation called the Situation Room Experience.  One of the pivotal issues in the Situation Room Experience regards the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.   Recently we looked at how Sections 1 and 2 of the 25th Amendment were first invoked in 1973 and 1974 upon the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon.  This post, from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert, examines Section 3 of the 25th Amendment, which was first invoked during President Reagan’s second term.  The final post in the series looks at Section 4.


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An early draft of the letter to the Speaker of the House used to invoke the 25th Amendment in 1985. President Reagan was concerned about setting a precedent which future Presidents might be pressured to follow.

On July 13, 1985 President Ronald Reagan became the first President to invoke Section 3 of the 25th Amendment.  Or did he?  Like the Amendment requires, President Reagan sent a letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate, which was Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina at the time, and Speaker of the House, which was then Representative Thomas “Tip” O’Neill of Massachusetts.  In the draft above there are a couple lines which indicate that President Reagan had some misgivings about using the Amendment for a brief surgery.  “I do not believe that the drafters of this Amendment intended its applications to situations such as the instant one,” is a line from the draft that made it into the final letter.

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The 25th Amendment: The Situation Room Experience and United States History

In 2015 the Reagan Presidential Library began developing a one-of-a-kind experiential learning simulation called the Situation Room Experience.  Developed primarily for high school juniors and seniors, the game allows students to step into the role of a government official or member of the press to deal with a modern, fictional, foreign policy crisis based on the real documents kept within the archives at the Reagan Library.  One of the pivotal issues in the Situation Room Experience regards the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This blog post, from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert, is the first of a series that explores that Amendment in-depth.  Part II of the series examines Section 3 of the 25th Amendment.


An oil painting of William Henry Harrison looking young and strong in a military dress uniform, holding a sword in his left hand.

This 1813 portrait of William Henry Harrison by Rembrandt Peale is from the National Portrait Gallery.  In this portrait Harrison is at the height of his powers as a young military officer, but he was the oldest President sworn into office until President Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.

On April 3, 1841 when William Henry Harrison died in office only a month into his first term, a Constitutional crisis occurred centering around Presidential succession.  No American President had died in office before.  Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution states “In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President.”  An argument took shape that was not settled until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967.  Some argued that this clause meant only that the Vice President would become Acting President taking on the powers of the Presidency, but not the actual President of the United States.  Vice President John Tyler argued that he was now President of the United States, and had himself sworn in as such.  His political opponents mockingly nicknamed him “His Accidency” and his single term was plagued by a contentious relationship with Congress.

The problem of Presidential succession continued to plague the United States until the 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967.  Since 1792, Congress has passed several laws and Constitutional Amendments to clarify the process of Presidential succession, which you can explore in some of the resources listed at the bottom of this post.  Yet there were still problems that these laws could not solve, problems the 25th Amendment was designed to solve.  The 25th Amendment has 4 sections, each of which was written to address a different problem of Presidential succession.  Today’s blog post addresses the first two sections of the 25th Amendment.  The rest of this series will discuss sections 3 and 4 and tell the history of the 25th Amendment and how it became part of our United States Constitution. Continue reading

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Film This! 2017 Arrives at the Reagan Library

Today’s guest blog from our summer volunteer Beatrice explores our annual documentary filmmaking workshop for high school students, called Film This!  This was the first of two Film This! sessions that the Reagan Library will be offering this summer. There are limited spots still available for Session B, July 24-28. For more information or to register, email reaganeducation@nara.gov.

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Last week, 10 high school students from California, and one all the way from North Carolina, made their way to the Reagan Library for a week of film-making. This is the fifth year of Film This!, a program that acts as a hyper-condensed movie masterclass. For five days, students are taught by veterans Eric and Sue van Hamersveld through both lectures and the real experience of creating a short historical documentary from start to finish. This year, actor and past Film This! award winner Atticus Shaffer returned to lend his expertise as a teaching assistant and voice director.

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Instructor Eric van Hamersveld introducing the students’ films at a screening for friends and family on Friday.

“There are students who write to us, saying they learned more in our five-day class than they did in a semester of another film class,” Eric said. “It’s so great because it’s not just how to hold a camera or how to edit, but how to tell a story, how to ask critical questions.” Eric, an animator, and Sue, a graphic designer, guide students through the complete filmmaking process, from brainstorming ideas and titles to the final finishing touches of editing. As the week progressed, it was easy to see why students attested to learning so much at Film This! The mix of professional mentors and the resources to create historical documentaries creates an outstanding and one-of-a-kind learning experience. Continue reading

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Reagan Library Film Festival 2017

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert.

 

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February means it’s time for the annual Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Student Film Festival in which we screen and recognize outstanding student-made documentaries.  The awards ceremony was held February 2, 2017 and without further ado, here are this year’s winning films.

Best Overall:  TIE!!!

Roosevelt and the USO by Shane P.R. Carlson and Hannah Newman

Primetime: John F. Kennedy and the Media by Mimi Cocquyt, Titan Teachman, and Sophia Berryhill

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Presidents’ Day Research Guide

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert.

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Four Presidents Together: President Reagan made some remarks at the Diplomatic Entrance of the White House prior to the departure of three former Presidents, Nixon, Ford and Carter, for Egypt and President Anwar Sadat’s Funeral.  October 8, 1981.  (C4361-12A)

With President’s Day coming up on February 20 students in America’s schools are faced with daunting questions as teachers assign research projects: which President should they study and where can they research them?  Maybe you are happily finished with your formal education but love to learn about the Presidents and want to really dig in.  How can you do that?  Fear not, we have compiled a list of some of the great resources out there regarding the history of the American Presidency.  In fact, let’s start the list with this great article about the history of Presidents’ Day, officially known as Washington’s Birthday. Continue reading

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Where can I find President Reagan’s speech about…

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert.

With the above video, the YouTube channel for the National Archives and Records Administration office at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was born.  As the National Archives mission is to preserve and protect the records of the United States Federal Government in order to engage the public and promote public participation in our democracy, we are constantly looking for ways to make our resources available to people.  An online free-to-access archive of videos is a perfect fit.  President Reagan’s above speech, delivered on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, was a fitting choice for the first upload as our Education Department has a curriculum of primary-source based lesson plans for this speech as part of our “Great Communicator Files.”   Continue reading

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Archived but not Forgotten… Presidential Websites.

President Donald J. Trump was inaugurated on Friday, January 20th, 2017 at noon. If you visited the White House website immediately following the inauguration of the 45th President, you discovered that the website for President Obama was replaced by a website highlighting the new policies of the 45th President.

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What goes into making a Federal holiday: Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today’s post in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was written and researched by Gina Resetter and Kelly Barton, Archivists at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

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What goes into making a federal holiday? Sometimes, more than one would expect.

On November 2, 1983 President Reagan signed into law the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. day as a federal holiday to honor an American visionary, civil rights activist, and champion of the downtrodden. Many states celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day before its federal recognition in 1983.  Within President Reagan’s administration there was much debate about the best way to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Continue reading

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Amending America: The 20th Amendment, January 20, and Presidential Inaugurations

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert.

Later this month on January 20, if you follow the Reagan Presidential Library on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram , or any of the other Presidential Libraries for that matter, you might notice something: every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second term has been sworn into office on January 20.  Those of you with perfect recall for dates, might remember, however, that President Reagan’s second term inauguration happened on January 21, 1985, right?  How did that happen?  What about all the Presidents of the United States before Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when were they sworn in?

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Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Warren Berger swore in President Reagan for his second term in this public ceremony on January 21, 1985, as President Reagan’s wife Nancy Reagan looks on.  C26877-14

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