- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

Another election has passed and voters have freely decided George W. Bush will remain the president of the United States for another four years.

His role in shaping the future of America, along with his 42 predecessors, makes for a fascinating historical journey that can cover not only the men behind the desk of the Oval Office, but afford an opportunity to delve into the complexity of our government’s executive branch.

A site originally created as an online companion for a PBS miniseries in 2000 takes on this challenge by continuing to offer a robust educational place to explore the inner workings and evolution of the American presidency.

American President

Site address: www.americanpresident.org.

Creator: The site was donated to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 2001. Since then, the center has been completely responsible for all of its content.

Creator quotable: “We created AmericanPresident.org to serve an audience that is hungry for reliable, nonpartisan information about how their government works,” says Garth Wermter, program director of AmericanPresident.org.

“Beyond simply addressing the history of the most powerful position in the world, we make the executive branch of government accessible to everyone,” he says. “By combining the history of the U.S. presidency with its functional dimension, we make transparent the decision-making processes that occur at the highest levels of government.”

Word from the Webwise: Tapping into primary and secondary sources, an editorial board of scholars, historic photographs, video archives and extensive text documents, the site boasts 60,000 pages of information on everything that can be considered presidential.

Only a pair of unassuming sections are required for knowledge seekers to find a gold mine of information.

First, Presidency in Action presents interactive organization flow charts that highlight the work of some of the current and previous White House officials; resource articles about White House administrative units and their responsibilities; and display essays on areas of presidential responsibility.

As visitors click arrows and shaded areas of the chart, they can learn about people such as the director of the White House Situation Room, Deborah Loewer, or get a biography on Vice President Dick Cheney.

Additionally, they can simply click on text links to read a bit about the areas of domestic policy, economic policy, national security, legislative policy, presidential politics and the administration of the White House through a historic perspective.

Second, Presidency in History provides a one-page biography of every president and his first lady; a detailed timeline that pops up event boxes relevant to the president; biographies of his Cabinet officials, staffers and advisers; and many multimedia galleries for most of the 43 men.

Visitors can view a campaign poster of Theodore Roosevelt running for governor, find out that Soviet leader Josef Stalin died during the Eisenhower administration, and access the Jefferson Digital Archive (https://etext.lib.virginia.edu/jefferson/) through a link on the Thomas Jefferson page.

Ease of use: Visitors should have the latest Macromedia Flash plug-in for their browser and a video player plug-in to benefit the most from the numerous resources.

Don’t miss: Visitors will find a link on former President Richard M. Nixon’s page leading them to the Miller Center of Public Affairs’ White House Tapes archive (www.whitehousetapes.org).

There, they can hear actual audio recordings of former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Mr. Nixon in either Windows Media, OGG Vorbis, FLAC or MP3 formats.

Family activity: The site offers little in projects to do away from the computer. However, the whole clan can plan to someday tour the White House. The official White House site (www.whitehouse.gov/history/tours) says tours are for groups of 10 persons or more. Check the site for more information.

Cybersitter synopsis: The straightforward presentations and reverence for the source material make it a perfect resource for the high school student or junior scholar to quickly understand the relevancy of the president of the United States.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski @washingtontimes.com).

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