Just prior to the Nov. 6 election, presidential authority Anthony Clay presented a two-part program at Carolina Meadows on the history, powers, and challenges of the United States presidency. In an entertaining and non-partisan fashion, Clay traveled back and forth over more than two centuries of American history.
Clay, currently teaching at the Carolina Friends School, opened the program with a PowerPoint slide that simply said: POTUS. He asked the audience of 40 residents what the word meant. Immediately, voices from all over the Fairways Gallery called out “President of the United States.” Having gained his audience’s attention, Clay then asked, “OK, that’s right. Now, what’s the Secret Service call name for the First Lady?” After some hesitancy, someone said, FLOTUS. “Right you are!”
Much of the first session was spent explaining the 25th amendment to the Constitution, which provides clarity and safeguards for presidential succession. Prior to the 1967 ratification of the amendment, if a president died in office, the vice president assumed the office but there was no vice president until the next presidential election. So, when Harry Truman assumed the office after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, there was no vice president for several years.
The 25th amendment allows the president, with the approval of a majority of the House of Representatives, to appoint a vice president when a vacancy occurs. This provision has been employed twice. In 1973, when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford to the position. The following year, when Nixon resigned and Ford assumed the presidency, he appointed Nelson Rockefeller as vice president. Thus, for the only time in history, neither the president nor the vice president had been elected to their offices.
Much information such as this refreshed the memories and provided new knowledge to the grateful Carolina Meadows audience.
By Bill Powers