Yes, We Have Had Smart Presidents

John Q. Adams, arguably the first (ex-)president to be photographed (1843 when he was 76). William Henry Harrison was photographed in 1841, but that photo was lost.

While the United States has had some notably ignorant presidents–Donald Trump, who paid a boy to take his SAT test, and George W. Bush, who couldn’t be bothered to go to class after getting into college on his father’s name–it has also had some bright people in the nation’s highest office.

Intelligence has not always translated into being a great president (see: Jimmy Carter), but Trump and Bush have set such a low bar that it is probably good to take a look at some presidents who were accomplished intellectually.

Historian Colin Riegels put together the following list (in no particular order), which is a good starting point. I will take issue with the inclusion of Woodrow Wilson, a well-educated man, but an avowed and ridiculously harsh racist, showing that even exceptionally accomplished academicians can be stupid.

  1. John Quincy Adams (Harvard grad and most common pick for the highest Presidential IQ of all time – some estimated as high as an improbable 175. Fluent in seven languages and studied in several countries.)
  2. Thomas Jefferson (mostly famous for his library, which was a sure sign of intelligence back in the day when books cost a fortune. He was an expert on many subjects, including economics, architecture, food and wine, agriculture, paleontology, astronomy, music, and writing.)
  3. James Madison (A Princeton student who was generally thought to be mega bright.)
  4. John F. Kennedy (Harvard grad, only President to win a Pulitzer Prize.)
  5. Bill Clinton (Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford after Georgetown and then went on to study law at Yale.)
  6. Jimmy Carter (was literally a rocket scientist.)
  7. Woodrow Wilson (studied at Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Johns Hopkins – only US President so far to hold a PhD – so technically I guess people called him Dr President…)
  8. Teddy Roosevelt (known as more of an outdoorsman, the other Roosevelt was plenty bright too – attending Harvard and Columbia Law.)
  9. Barack Obama (the obverse of Teddy Roosevelt, he studied at Columbia and Harvard Law, graduating magna cum laude and being editor of the law review.)

By admin

Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.

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