Commander in Chief | Chief Executive | Chief Diplomat | Ceremonial Head of State | Manager of the Economy | Party Leader | National Leader

Clock with figure of Franklin D. Roosevelt

As a nation, we place no greater responsibility on any one individual than we do on the president. Could any job be more demanding and complex? We ask the president to be executive, diplomat, military leader, and consoler. On any given day he might have to make life-and-death decisions, propose policies that will change the course of the country, and then greet a group of elementary schoolchildren.

The greatest chief executives thrive at balancing the numerous roles they are expected to play; others stumble because they cannot master one of the many duties of the office.

Thomas Jefferson's lap desk
In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable lap desk of his own design. Featuring a hinged writing board and a locking drawer for papers, pens, and inkwell, the desk was Jefferson's companion as a revolutionary patriot, American diplomat, and president of the United States.

The drafts of the Declaration of Independence were among the first documents Jefferson penned on this desk; the note he attached under the writing board in 1825 was among the last: "Politics as well as Religion has its superstitions. These, gaining strength with time, may, one day, give imaginary value to this relic, for its great association with the birth of the Great Charter of our Independence."

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National Museum of American History