Presidents v Trump – Inauguration Day, 2017

Well, it’s finally happened. The USA have decided to completely lose their shit and elect a man “egregiously unqualified” to be their president – the great presidents of the past must be turning over in their graves (the dead ones, anyway). The horror! What has America done?

Of course, I’m kidding. There’s nothing to stop a man who has never had any training in law or politics from being elected president. So as it’s Trump’s inauguration today, I thought it would be interesting to look into the background of some of The United States’ former presidents to see how they stack up to the new one.

Presidents who studied law

As annoying as it may seem, that a man who has never studied at law school should hold the utmost position in law*, very few former US presidents actually did. Only fifteen attended law schools, and only six of them graduated. Others became lawyers after independent study – the practice of studying under a practicing judge or attorney.

Presidents who attended law school and graduated

  • Richard Nixon
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Barack Obama
  • William Howard Taft
  • Gerald Ford
  • Bill Clinton

Presidents who attended law school but didn’t graduate

  • William McKinley (withdrew – became a lawyer after independent study)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (withdrew)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (withdrew)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (withdrew)
  • Gerald Ford (transferred)
  • Franklin Pierce (did not graduate – became a lawyer after independent study)
  • Chester A. Arthur (did not graduate – became a lawyer after independent study)
  • Harry S. Truman (withdrew)
  • Woodrow Wilson (withdrew – became a lawyer after independent study)

Presidents who became lawyers after independent study:

  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin Van Buren
  • John Tyler
  • James K. Polk
  • Millard Fillmore
  • James Buchanan
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James A. Garfield
  • Grover Cleveland
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • Calvin Coolidge

So in all, of the 43 men who have previously held the position only 6 (~ 13%) graduated law school.

Franklin D. Roosevelt withdrew from college after passing the bar exam.

Presidents who didn’t graduate from college

This is perhaps the more surprising list, or perhaps not. It depends on your perspective and understanding of the time in which these men lived. It’s reasonable to assume that your incoming president is a well educated man, and for the most part they have been. But being a well educated doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to undergo extensive formal study. Here are some the former presidents who didn’t graduate college:

  • George Washington
  • James Monroe
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin van Buren
  • Willam Henry Harrison
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Grover Clevelend
  • William McKinley
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

As previously mentioned, some of these men became lawyers through independent study (Monroe, Jackson, Fillmore, Lincoln, Cleveland) and one dropped out because he passed the bar exam (Roosevelt), and all of them became president, so they couldn’t have done that badly with life, right?

*NB Despite being head of the executive branch, the president is not above the law – that’s what impeachment laws are there for.

Presidents who studied something other than law

Not everyone wanted to be a lawyer – some didn’t even consider politics until after they studied at college. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower both attended West Point – the United States Military Academy. Two studied sciences – Herbert Hoover studied Geology, Jimmy Carter studied Nuclear Physics. Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush both studied economics, while George W. Bush studied business. Lyndon B Johnson got his teaching degree and briefly became a teacher before entering politics. John F. Kennedy studied Government – which kind of makes sense when you’re going to be the president!

It doesn’t matter what presidents studied (or if they did at all)

It doesn’t matter if an incoming president studied law or the liberal arts, or took a year off after high school that turned into several years doing nothing. What matters most, in my opinion, is that you have at least some understanding of the law and how it works, and at be able to name at least half of those who came before you. What does it matter that Donald Trump is a businessman instead of a politician? It’s not like the last businessman-cum-president led us all into an illogical and probably illegal war… wait… never mind.

Why I’m NOT boycotting the inauguration

There seems to be a theory doing the rounds that by not watching the inauguration, it will somehow delegitimise Trump’s presidency. Sort of like, ‘if a man is inaugurated, but nobody’s around to watch it, is he really president?’ That’s just bloody stupid. It’s not going to make the slightest bit of difference to Trump, and nobody is really going to care that a load of people don’t watch it. It’s like when Nigel Farage comes on the TV here in the UK and I immediately switch over to something else – nobody in the world is going to be affected by my actions, least of all Nigel Farage. So why bother? (N.B. Nigel Farage has a stupid, smug face even when he knows he’s wrong and I really can’t stand him. That’s why I turn over. I’d rather be subjected to the Ludovico technique than have to watch him for even a second.)

It’ll only affect the ratings

Whether we watch or not, he’s still going to be sworn in – he’s still going to be president. He’ll probably just be a bit pissy about the ratings. Because that sort of thing triggers him:

I’ve watched every inauguration I can recall being on British television since my teens, so I’m not going to stop now just because I don’t agree with the guy being sworn in. I may not like his politics, but until it’s ruled otherwise he won a democratically run election, and he is legitimately entitled to be the next president. We have our own problems in the UK at the moment, so it’ll be fun to watch politics going crazy somewhere else for a change.

Kim Jong Un promises there’ll be a magnificent fireworks display

Hopefully, North Korea won’t nuke Washington D. C. during the inauguration – there are some people attending who I actually respect. If you ask me, basically anyone who gets out of that job alive is worthy of respect. Not to mention the innocent civilians who will be there in support or protest of Trump don’t deserve to be nuked.

George W. Bush is probably only there so he can laugh about the fact that he’s no longer going to be remembered by Democrats as the dumbest American president ever.
In all honesty though, I do feel for him and the entire Bush family at the moment, and wish George Sr. and Barbara a speedy recovery. The fact that George Jr. is going to be at the inauguration representing two former presidents is incredibly humbling. No other former president has ever attended an inauguration representing both himself and his former president father. Kudos, George!

Anyway, I’ve spent as long writing this post as I did with my last college essay (similar word count, too), so I’m going to leave it here.



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