The concept of the Bully Pulpit is not
found in the Constitution or any actual law, it instead
developed as an extension of the president's position
and meaning in American society. Coined by President
Teddy Roosevelt, the bully pulpit is the use of the
prestige and public authority of the president to
advocate for a particular agenda or idea, not by
legislation but by persuasion of the American people.
Public speeches in which the president may ask the
American people to undertake a specific request, not
because of a government action, but because of a
presidential appeal, is an example of the bully pulpit.
The ability to use the 'Bully Pulpit' is based purely on
the president's moral authority and respect for the
office of the presidency.
NOTE: The examples
listed below are selected for their value in study for
the Regent's Examination,
and represent a small fraction of the possible examples.
Roosevelt coins the term "Bully Pulpit":
very concept of the Bully Pulpit, or
the use of the president's position in American society
as a means to push an agenda, was defined by the
presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt believed
that the presidency was more than just an elected
political position, but could be used as a force for
social change in the nation, not simply via laws and
executive orders, but by speeches, programs and appeals
to the American people.
During his presidency TR railed
against the power of trusts and the big businessmen he
called "malefactors of great wealth". He urged
the American people to aid the progressive reform
movement by action and volunteerism within their own
communities and cities, in an effort to alleviate the
problems exposed by the muckraking writers of the
day. He used the presidency as a forum for demanding
businesses to increase wages and improve safety, as well
as appealing for conservation of natural
resources and wild lands. Many of these initiatives were
translated into formal legislation, but may others
remained as simple appeals to the hearts and minds of
Americans, and it is this precedent that all modern
presidents have used to spur the nation into action,
simply by asking.
asks the US to conserve resources:
During the heart of the energy
crisis in the late 1970's, as oil and energy prices
Jimmy Carter appealed to the American people to conserve
energy resources. He asked the American people to voluntarily
reduce their driving speeds and turn down their
thermostats, there by saving gas and energy, thereby
reducing the US's dependency on Middle Eastern oil
imports. A famous appeal had Carter in a sweater, from
the Oval Office of the White House, as he led by
example, having reduced the heat in his own office.
While the results of the voluntary energy reduction
programs were limited, it serves as a good example of
the bully pulpit in action.
Reagans ask America to "just say no" to drugs:
Americans' use of illegal drugs soared in the late
1970's and early 1980's the DEA and other law
enforcement agencies seemed helpless to stop the rising
tide of usage. Stricter drug laws and tighter US borders
seemed to do little to address the issue, which was
driven by demand for drugs within the US and not foreign
President Ronald Reagan and First
Lady Nancy Reagan responded to
the failures of the laws, by resorting to the social
appeals of the bully pulpit. Reagan declared a war on
drugs, creating a drug czar
to oversee US policy and increasing funding for interdiction
efforts. To attempt to curb demand for illegal drugs a
call to "just say no" was launched,
featuring appeals by both the president and first lady
Reagan, directed at the American public. This "just
say no" campaign was coupled with a push for the D.A.R.E.
(Drug Awareness Resistance Education) program, a
drug education plan which became a fixture in most US
elementary schools. Again, while the results of the
"just say no" programs on demand for illegal
drugs were debatable, it serves as a good example of a
bully pulpit appeal..