John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon at the second presidential debate, 1960.
United Press International

In the half-century between 1941 and 1991 the ten men who have served as president of the United States have scored some stupendous successes in their role as unquestioned world leader, but they have also suffered some spectacular failures. The greatest successes-the turning back of Nazism, fascism and communism in Europe and of Japanese militarism in Asia-are of such an order of magnitude that they must be described as America's unique gift to the world. That the presidents and their nation did not achieve these triumphs for freedom on their own is obvious, but it is equally obvious that the triumphs could not have been achieved without their leadership and determination. The presidents' contribution to the end of another "ism"-colonialism-has been of lesser importance, though still a positive one, as also their contribution to the advent of peaceful relations between Egypt and Israel, not to mention the continuing existence of Israel.

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  • Stephen E. Ambrose is Boyd Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans.
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