Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were former U.S. presidents. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton address the audience at the "Deep from the Heart" concert, Texas A&M University, Oct. 21, 2017.
The president is everywhere. They campaign for themselves and other like-minded politicians, promote their agenda to Congress and host winning sports teams at White House.
What, then, does the U.S. President do every day?
It's not just about giving speeches or attending ceremonial meetings with foreign leaders. Terry Sullivan, executive Director of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan organization that assists incoming presidents in getting settled, said that it's more important than being a CEO at a large global company.
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It is possible to gauge the work load of the commander-in-chief by measuring how many hours they work each day. Sullivan, an emeritus faculty member at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, stated that presidents have worked more in recent decades than they did when they were elected.
Sullivan compiled unpublished data on the first 100 days between Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush (or 1953 to 1993), each president's day increased by approximately 10% between the first and 100th days.
Live Science's Sullivan said in an email that "Even President Jimmy Carter's already extraordinaryly long day (averaging 17.4hrs) stretched an additional 8%" between his first and 100th days in office.
What were the presidents doing with their time? Answer: They spent more time doing what they believe a president should do, such as serving as commander-in-chief of the country, and less on matters relating to political parties.
According to the paper by Sullivan that was being published and shared with Live Science, the average president spent 35% of his waking hours in unique roles. These included commander-in-chief or the head of armed forces as authorized by U.S. Constitution. The president also spent 31% of his time on legislative duties. This includes meeting with congressional leaders, signing bills into law, as well managing the White House. This involves overseeing the work and activities of his chief of staff, and other high-ranking assistants. Sullivan suggested that only 1.4% of daily activities were devoted to economic management. This could be because experts in the field often took over this role.
According to Sullivan's analysis, about 9% of the president spent his time on tasks related leadership of his party and communications. (The president spent the remainder of his day on travel and personal tasks.
All the President's Time
Anybody who is interested in the history of presidents' day can access it online, provided they have internet access. John Woolley, codirector of The American Presidency Project (UCSB), said that presidents began keeping what is now called a "daily journal" starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 tenure. Many of these diaries can be found online in various presidential libraries. (The UCSB project also aims to provide a comprehensive online archive of presidential public documents.
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Woolley explained to Live Science that the diary gives a more detailed view of the president's activities than the public schedule.
According to the White House Historical Association, the National Archives staff has now assembled the diary of the modern presidents. Authorized by the Presidential Records Act 1978, the staff of National Archives uses sources such as Secret Service logs and notes from White House staff.
According to the LBJ Presidential Library, President Lyndon B. Johnson began his day on July 2, 1964 at 9 a.m. by having breakfast with Lady Bird Johnson. There were meetings with ambassadors, legislators, and Cabinet members. One entry even says that Johnson wrote a note to Luci on her 17th birthday.
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 6:45 p.m. Rev. According to official photos and the invitee list, Martin Luther King Jr. attended.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Civil Rights Act with Martin Luther King Jr. behind him. (Image credit Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.
According to the diary, Johnson fell asleep at 10:46 p.m. after reading papers from the presidential jet on its way to Texas.
The daily diary has its limitations. Sometimes the records may not be complete due to national security concerns. Sometimes, however, the complete list of attendees to a meeting may not be available. This is usually due to an accidental omission.
The daily diary, however, is a treasure trove of information that most historical presidents will never have. If you are interested in original research or the daily activities of the presidents in the past, it is worth looking into the history books.
George Washington, for example, kept diaries. Some of these, along with financial papers and correspondence, are in The Library of Congress. Although samples are online, it may be difficult to decipher them as they were handwritten.
Sullivan's paper stated that all presidents have the same forces that shape their lives, regardless of what they are faced with during their administrations. Eisenhower in the Korean War and Richard Nixon in the Vietnam War were both wartime presidents who didn't change the amount of time they spent on commanders-in-chief duties.
However, Kennedy's attention to military matters increased more than doubling when the Bay of Pigs crisis occurred during John F. Kennedy’s first 100 days in office.
Original publication on Live Science