The President of the United States is often considered the most powerful elected official in the world. The President leads a nation of great wealth and military strength. Presidents have often provided decisive leadership in times of crisis, and they have shaped many important events in history. The President has many roles and performs many duties. As chief executive, the President makes sure that federal laws are enforced. As commander in chief of the nation's armed forces, the President is responsible for national defense. As foreign policy director, the President determines United States relation with other nations. As legislative leader, the President recommends new laws and works to win their passage. As head of a political party, the President helps mold the party's positions on national and foreign issues. As popular leader, the President tries to inspire the American people to work together to meet the nation's goals. Finally, as chief of state, the President performs a large variety of ceremonial duties.
The thirty-seventh President, Richard Milhous Nixon, was born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California. He was the second of the five sons of Francis Anthony Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon. At the age of about ten, he began working part time as a bean picker. During his teens, he worked as a handyman in a packinghouse, janitor at a swimming pool, and barker at an amusement park. While in college, Nixon served as bookkeeper and as manager of the vegetable department of his father's store. Always a good student, he was invited by Harvard and Yale to apply for scholarships, but his older brother's illness and the Depression made his presence close to home necessary. So he attended nearby Whittier College, where he graduated second in his class in 1934. He went on to law school at Duke University, where his seriousness and determination won him the nickname "Gloomy Gus." He graduated third in his class and applied for jobs with both large northeastern law firms and the FBI. His applications were all rejected, so he was forced to go home to southern California, where his mother helped get him a job at a friend's local law firm. Shortly after returning home, Nixon met Thelma Catharine Ryan. At that time she was teaching commercial subjects at Whittler High School. They were married on June 21, 1940. The Nixons had two daughters, Patricia born in 1946, and Julie born 1948.
At the outbreak of World War Two, Nixon went to work briefly for the tire-rationing section for the Office of Price Administration in Washington, DC. Eight months later, he joined the Navy and was sent to the Pacific as a supply officer. Nixon was popular with his men, and such an accomplished poker player that he was able to send enough of his comrades-in-arms' money back home to help fund his first political campaign. Shortly after returning from the war, Nixon entered politics, answering a Republican Party call in the...