Report from Presidential Politics: Role-Play, Debate, and History

by Marshall Russell

It’s been an exciting time in Presidential Politics with role-playing, debating, and watching political satire.

On the first day, Mr. Jenkins and I set the tone for the class by role-playing the John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debates of 1960. After discussing the presidency and legacy of JFK, the students prepared for a study hall debate of Mapp v. Ohio and the legality of evidence seized without a warrant. On the second day, we began discussing Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and dived head-first into controversial topics like the Vietnam War and the extent of the federal government’s power.

In the next days, we discussed and debated the legacy and presidency of Richard Nixon. Students role-played the Nixon and Hubert Humphrey debates as well as the Nixon and George McGovern debates. At study hall, we held a heated debate over Roe v. Wade and unanimously ruled in favor of the United States in the United States v. Nixon. Despite the stark contrasts in political ideology, our class continues to get along, respect each other’s beliefs, and handle sensitive topics in a mature manner.

In the following days, we discussed, debated, role-played, and watched satire over the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter presidencies. Students argued over Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon and Carter’s handling of the Iran hostage crisis. Students carried out a role-play of the Ronald Reagan and Carter debates and explained the differences between their ideologies.

(Back row, left to right) Russell Marshall, Nora Perez, Isabella Pellegrino, Alexis Barton, Sean Simons, Maggie Cox, Finn Shirley, Nathaniel Jones, Jonah Flueck, Dennis Jenkins. (Front row, left to right) Elizabeth Moots, Shawn Cochran

When we reached the Reagan presidency we discussed Reaganomics, the Strategic Defense Initiative, Reagan’s meetings with Gorbachev, and their long-term effects. At study hall, we discussed Supreme Court cases relating to the first and fourth amendment rights of students. Ironically, the majority of the students ruled in favor of limiting the rights of students when at school.

In the second week, we discussed George H. W. Bush’s presidency, role-played his debates, and watched Dana Carvey’s satire on Saturday Night Live. After a summary of Bush’s one-term presidency, we began discussing Bill Clinton’s first term. On Thursday evening, we headed to Washington, D.C, where we visited the Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol, and the White House, followed by a monument tour with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and Pop Culture classes.

In our closing week, we will wrap up with the modern presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. We will also have our Presidential Face-Off Tournament, where students will debate to find out who is the greatest president, as well as the Mount Rushmore project, where students defend the legacies of their top four favorite presidents.


Presidential Politics has been an exciting and fun experience for all of us involved, and we expect even more fun this last week with thorough research and heated debates!

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