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Issue Essay Practice Set

Issue essay 1
Length: 1 essay
Directions: You will be given a statement that presents an issue you need to respond to, along with detailed
instructions on how to respond to the statement. You have 30 minutes to plan and compose a response in which
you develop an argument according to the instructions. A response to any other issue results in a score of zero.
The perceived greatness of any political leader has more to do with the challenges faced by that leader than with
any of his or her inherent skills and abilities.
Write a response in which you examine your own position on the statement. Explore the extent to which you either
agree or disagree with it, and support your reasoning with evidence and/or examples. Be sure to reflect on ways in
which the statement might or might not be true, and how this informs your thinking on the subject.
Perceptions of greatness in national and political leaders are largely determined by the seriousness of the problems
that they face during their terms in office. Most national histories principally highlight individuals in the context of
significant events in which the leaders played important roles. Most political leaders need to have large stores of
inherent skill and ability just in order to become a political leader. However, history remembers those who lived in
great times more fondly than those who did not. Examples of this are numerous and include the histories of
Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchillall men who are perceived as great leaders largely
because of the times in which they lived.
Abraham Lincoln is often considered the greatest of all the American presidents. He graces two unites of the
currency and has one of the largest monuments built in his honor in Washington D.C. However, Lincoln is
considered great largely because he faced a great challengethe civil war between the North and the South in the
1860s. Lincoln led the United States to victory over the rebels and reunited the country and is therefore considered
great. This is not to say that Lincoln was not skilled. Many know that he was born in a log cabin and progressed to
law school and eventually to the presidency. He was also a skilled orator. However another man, James Buchanan,
also was born in a log cabin, went to law school, gave good speeches and ascended to the presidency. However there
are no monuments to Buchanan in the capital or pictures of his face on the fivedollar bill.
Woodrow Wilson was another talented man who ascended to the presidency of the United States. However his
talents are not what make his perceived greatness. In this age, few remember if Wilson was particularly smart, a
very good speechmaker, or a good arbitrator. Most remember that he led the United States to victory in the first
World War and therefore perceive him as great. At the time, however, Wilson was rather unpopular. In fact, he had
so little sway with Congress that he was unable to get the United States to join the League of Nationsa fact that
many claim helped lead to the second World War.
Winston Churchill was another man that history views favorably because of the incredible challenges that he faced.
However, Churchill was not very popular before the war. When Franklin Roosevelt first met Churchill before either
was the leader of his respective country. Roosevelt wrote in his diary that Churchill was full of himself and far too
talkative. Early in his term as Prime Minister, Churchill even faced a noconfidence vote in Parliament. However,
the events of World War II accorded him the perception of greatness in the eyes of history.
Many might argue that these men and other men and women were already great before history gave them great
challenges. While it is impossible to definitely disprove this assertion and it may be true that they had great skill
and ability, otherwise they would not have been political leaders, most examples point to the fact that the times
make the man or woman. If the presidencies of Buchanan and Lincoln were switched, we would very likely have the
Buchanan memorial instead. In summary, it is true that the perceived greatness of a political leader is more due to
great challenges than great inherent ability. The historical examples of Lincoln, Wilson, and Churchill bear this out.
All were talented, but so too are all political leaders. Only the leaders that live in eventful times are remembered as