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Statement of Purpose: The purpose of this website is to provide information about the structure of the American Government. Objectives: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the organization and powers of the national government. Describe the structure and powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Audience: The audience is for students in grades 6 – 12 who are studying the structure and powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
The American Government Web Site Content
The Constitution: The Constitution is built on six basic principles. These are deeply ingrained in the mindset and landscape of US Government.
Popular Sovereignty - This principle states that the source of governmental power lies with the people. Limited Government - In other words, the US government does not derive its power from itself. It must follow its own laws and it can only act using powers given to it by the people. Separation of Powers - As stated previously, the US Government is divided into three branches so that no one branch has all the power. Each branch has its own purpose: to make the laws, execute the laws, and interpret the laws. Checks and Balances - In order to further protect the citizens, the constitution set up a system of checks and balances. Basically, each branch of government has a certain number of checks it can use to ensure the other branches do not become too powerful. Judicial Review - This is a power that allows the Supreme Court to decide whether acts and laws are unconstitutional. Federalism - This is the idea that the central government does not control all the power in the nation. States also have powers reserved to them.
The Executive Branch The Executive Branch consists of: President of the United States, Vice President of the United States, and the President’s Cabinet.
The home of the Executive Branch is the White House The executive branch of Government enforces the laws of the land. The Role of the President: Carries out and recommends federal laws, directs national defense and foreign policy, directing government, commanding the Armed Forces, dealing with international powers and vetoing laws. He serves as the Head of the Executive Branch of Government. The Role of the Vice President: President of the Senate and becomes President if the President can no longer do the job. The Role of the Cabinet: Meets at least once a week to discuss matters that affect the United States The Cabinet consists of:
Department of State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton http://www.state.gov Department of the Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner http://www.treasury.gov Department of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates http://www.defenselink.mil Department of Justice Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. http://www.usdoj.gov Department of the Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar http://www.doi.gov Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack http://www.usda.gov Department of Commerce Secretary Gary F. Locke http://www.commerce.gov Department of Labor
Tiana Tibbs Secretary Hilda L. Solis http://www.dol.gov Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius http://www.hhs.gov Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun L.S. Donovan http://www.hud.gov Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood http://www.dot.gov Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu http://www.energy.gov Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan http://www.ed.gov Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki http://www.va.gov Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano http://www.dhs.gov
Requirements for the President and Vice President Must be at least 35 years old Natural born U.S. citizen Must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. The President serves a term of four years. The most one President can serve is two terms for a total of eight years. The current President is Barack Obama He is the 44th President of the United States He is also the first black President of the United States
The current Vice President is Joseph Biden Legislative Branch The legislative branch consists of Congress and government agencies. Congress has two parts: The House of Representatives and the Senate. The Legislative branch is housed in the U.S. Capitol The Role of Congress: Make the laws The Role of the House of Representatives: Start laws that make people pay taxes. Decide if a government official should be put on trial before the Senate if s/he commits a crime against the country. The Role of the Senate: Say yes or no to any treaties the president makes. Say yes or no to any people the president recommends for jobs, such as cabinet officers, Supreme Court justices, and ambassadors. Can hold a trial for a government official who does something very wrong.
House of Representatives Representation of the House of Representatives is based on the population in each state. There are a total of 435 representatives in the House. Each member represents an area of the state known as a congressional district. States with larger populations have more representation than states with smaller populations. Each representative serves a term of 2 years. When the term is over, people from that state may choose to elect a new representative or keep the same one. There is no limit on the number of terms a representative can serve. Requirements for House of Representatives: Be at least 25 years old Be a U.S. citizen for the past 7 years Live in the state they represent
Each of the 50 states sends 2 people to the Senate, so there are a total of 100 senators. This means that each state has equal representation in the Senate. Each senator serves a term of 6 years. When their 6 year term is over, the people from that state may choose to elect a new senator or keep the same one. There is no limit on the number of terms a senator can serve. Requirements for the Senate: Be at least 30 years old Be a U.S. citizen for the past 9 years Live in the state they represent Judicial Branch The judicial branch is made of the court system. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The Judicial branch is housed in The Supreme Court. The Role of the Courts: Decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they break the rules of the Constitution. The Supreme Court The Supreme Court hears cases that made its way through the court system. Only about 80 to 100 cases are actually accepted each year. Once a decision is made in a case, it can only be changed by another Supreme Court decision or by amending the Constitution. The Supreme Court has to decide if cases challenge the Constitution. The Supreme Court is made of nine Justices. One of them is called the Chief Justice. They are appointed by the President and must be approved by the Senate. Justices have their jobs for life unless they resign, retire, or are impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. There are no requirements to be appointed as a Justice but all have been trained in the law. Checks and Balances: Checks and Balances of the Legislative Branch The Legislative Branch is given the powers to make the laws. It has the following checks over the Executive Branch:
May override presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote Has the power over the purse strings to actually fund any executive actions May remove the president through impeachment
Senate approves treaties Senate approves presidential appointments
The Legislative Branch has the following checks over the Judicial Branch:
Creates lower courts May remove judges through impeachment Senate approves appointments of judges
Checks and Balances of the Executive Branch The Executive Branch is given the power to carry out the laws. It has the following checks over the Legislative Branch:
Veto power Ability to call special sessions of Congress Can recommend legislation Can appeal to the people concerning legislation and more
The Executive Branch has the following checks over the Judicial Branch:
President appoints Supreme Court and other federal judges
Checks and Balances of the Judicial Branch The Judicial Branch is given the power to interpret the laws. It has the following checks over the Executive Branch:
Judges, once appointed for life, are free from controls from the executive branch Courts can judge executive actions to be unconstitutional through the power of judicial review
The Judicial Branch has the following checks over the Legislative Branch:
Courts can judge legislative acts to be unconstitutional.
Washington Monument The Washington Monument is easy to spot from almost anywhere near the National Mall. At 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches, it towers over everything in the Nation's Capital. The cornerstone of this monument was laid on July 4, 1848 in a ceremony attended by President James K. Polk and other important people, including Representatives Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.
The money, for building the monument ran out in 1853 when it only stood 152 feet. It stood unfinished for 25 years until President Ulysses S. Grant approved an act authorizing the Federal Government to complete the project. In December 1884, the Washington Monument was completed by placing a 3,300 pound marble capstone on top of the obelisk. It was topped with a 9-inch pyramid of cast aluminum. White House The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical style. It has been the residence of every U.S. President since John Adams. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he (with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe) expanded the building outward, creating two colonnades that were meant to conceal stables and storage. Vietnam War Memorial This black granite wall, which was built in 1982, includes the names of over 58,000 American soldiers who died or disappeared during the Vietnam War. The Wall is only several inches tall when it begins and includes a single name of the first soldier killed in Vietnam in 1959. The Wall, which is 246 feet in length, rises in height to include the thousands of names of those who died during the Vietnam War in the 1960's and 1970's. Along the Wall you will see people using a paper and crayon to make a rubbing of a loved one's name. The beautiful memorial was designed by Maya Ying Lin when she was a 21 year old college student at Yale University. Nearby are several dramatic statues of US soldiers and the US women who served in Vietnam as medical personnel. Lincoln Memorial The Lincoln Memorial was built to resemble a Greek temple. It has 36 columns, one for each state at the time of Lincoln's death. The names of the 48 states in the Union (when the memorial was completed in 1922) are carved on the walls, above the
columns, along the outside of the memorial. A plaque honoring Alaska and Hawaii is just outside the building. Inside the memorial there is a huge statue of Lincoln sitting in a chair. The statue is 19 feet high and it weighs 175 tons! Inscribed on the south wall of the monument is the Gettysburg Address. Above it is a mural of an angel freeing a slave. Etched into the north wall is Lincoln's Second Inaugural speech. Above this is a mural representing the unity of the North and the South. Korean War Memorial The Korean War Veterans Memorial was authorized by the U.S. Congress on October 28, 1986, with design and construction managed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission. The memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. Walls: 164 feet long, 8 inches thick; more than 100 tons of highly polished "Academy Black" granite from California: . Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel statues designed by Frank Gaylord, each larger than lifesize, between 7 feet 3 inches and 7 feet 6 inches tall; each weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The figures represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces; fourteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy Corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea. When reflected on the wall, there appears to be 38 soldiers, representing the 38th parallel. Roosevelt Memorial Designers decided against plans to have FDR shown in a wheelchair. Instead, the statue depicts the president in a chair with a cloak obscuring the chair, showing him as he appeared to the public during his life. There is a bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing before the United Nations emblem. It is the only presidential memorial to depict a First Lady. Running water is an important physical and metaphoric component of the memorial. The five main water areas represents:
A single large drop - The crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression Multiple stairstep drops - The Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project Chaotic falls at varying angles - World War II
A still pool - Roosevelt's death A wide array combining the earlier waterfalls - A retrospective of Roosevelt's presidency
Jefferson Memorial The neoclassical building was designed by John Russell Pope. It was built by Philadelphia contractor Tyler Nichols. Construction began in 1939, the building was completed in 1943, and the bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947. When completed, the memorial occupied one of the last significant sites left in the city. The interior walls are engraved with passages from Jefferson's writings. Most prominent are the words which are inscribed in a frieze below the dome: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Holocaust Museum It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy. The museum contain more than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical photographs, 200,000 registered survivors, 1,000 hours of archival footage, 84,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies. The Hall of Remembrance is the museum's official memorial to the six million victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Visitors can memorialize the event by lighting candles, visiting an eternal flame, and reflecting in silence in the octagonal hall. Smithsonian Museum The Smithsonian is a museum and research complex, comprised of 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC are world class museums with a variety of exhibits ranging from insects and meteorites to locomotives and spacecraft. Admission to all of the Smithsonian museums is free. US Capitol The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress. The Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided. The Capitol was partially burned by the British on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812.
Supreme Court The Supreme Court Building is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States. On May 4, 1987, the Supreme Court Building was designated a National Historic Landmark. The west façade of the building (essentially, the "front" of the court, being the side which faces the Capitol) bears the motto "Equal Justice Under Law," while the east facade bears the motto "Justice, the Guardian of Liberty." Library of Congress The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, and it serves as the research arm of Congress. The Library of Congress was established by Congress in 1800, and was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century. After much of the original collection had been destroyed during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold 6487 books, his entire personal collection, to the library in 1815. The collections of the Library of Congress include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. Resources: http://americanhistory.about.com/od/governmentandpolitics/a/amgovoverview.htm http://bensguide.gpo.gov/ http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet http://www.wikipedia.com