High School Assignment - Speech on the Most Influential US President

Instructor: Symantha O'Byrne

Symantha has taught social studies, economics, math and adult test prep for special education and math. She holds an Ed. Specialist degree in curriculum and instruction

The student will choose the president of the United States who they believe was the most influential. They'll write and deliver a speech attempting to persuade an audience about this leader's influence.

Topic Overview

In this assignment, 11th grade students will write and deliver a speech explaining which US president they believe was the most influential. The speech (or presentation) can include visual elements to deepen understanding, and it can be recorded or delivered live.

Background Information

For the last 80 years, the president of the United States has arguably been one of the two or three most powerful and influential men in the world. Even before the US became a world super-power, the president was the most influential single person in the USA. The president has influenced economic and social policy at home and abroad and has been the face of American foreign policy since the earliest administrations.

George Washington was a war hero who shaped the presidency, and Lincoln fought to preserve the Union. Thomas Jefferson expanded our territory and Andrew Jackson championed the 'little people'. Teddy Roosevelt promoted the Progressive Era and created a system to conserve tracts of land for future generations, while Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the nation through the Great Depression and most of WWII. Wilson, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy led the nation through events like WWI and the Cold War. And there are dozens more to consider, including our most recent presidents.

Assignment for Students

You are going to decide which US president has been the most influential and write a speech (or prepare a presentation) in which you justify your choice in hopes of convincing your audience. Your grade for this assessment will be a combination of the score you receive on the paper and the score you receive on the delivery of the speech.

To develop your content, some questions to consider include:

  • How do you measure influence? Give specific examples.
  • How did things change because of the president's actions?
  • Does history view 'your' president as one of the most influential? If not, why?
  • 'Influential' doesn't necessarily mean that he was a good president…was he?

Below are details for the writing portion:

  • Frame the president's influence by explaining the historical context, especially major events in the USA during his administration and international events if relevant.
  • Include citations for all of your sources, correctly formatted.

Below are details for the speech portion:

  • Decide if you will submit a video of your speech or presentation or deliver live.
  • You may include visual props for either delivery format.

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