George Washington, Benito Juarez, and Simon Bolivar: an in-depth look into why we remember them.

byElisha Burns


This curriculum unit looks at the position of president from its establishment then focuses on three of the most notable presidents in American and Latin American history: George Washington, Simon Bolivar and Benito Juarez. The unit was created for 7 th grade, however, it is suitable for 6 th and 8 th grade. The curriculum unit places an emphasis on Latin American leaders because most California school are seeing an increase in the number of students from this ethnic background. The students buy into the lessons because they enjoy hearing familiar Spanish words and about obstacles that people have faced in history that mirror their own challenges. The connection that students feel between themselves and the historical figures helps them to become intrigued and inquisitive about the topic, which increases the effectiveness of teaching. Throughout this curriculum unit students are inspired to ask questions and discover information an essential component of the new Common Core Standards. Throughout this curriculum unit students will explore the three historical figures and the concept of hierarchy using various teaching strategies such as gradual release, small groups, learning stations, philosophical chairs and structured writing. Ultimately students will complete a hierarchy diagram and a persuasive essay for learning assessment.


Órale maestra que pasa hoy, that is how my 7 th grade students at August Boeger a middle school nestled in the heart of East San Jose, like to greet me in the morning. Students that live on The East Side come from a variety of backgrounds and social economic situations. Approximately 75% of students are from Hispanic or Latino backgrounds, 9% are from Asian backgrounds, 7% are from Filipino backgrounds, 5% are from White backgrounds, 3% from the African American background and the remaining are from other backgrounds (Great Schools, 2012). 1 August Boeger Middle School is a public school that serves approximately 800 students from grades 6–8. Approximately 74% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch and the social divide is evident in the million dollar homes that are tucked away in the hills, compared to the modest working class houses that are cramped along the valley floor and have seen better days.

The East Side is a diverse community that still has evidence of the Silicon Valley's rich farming history that has transitioned into a technological community. Art Rodriguez author of East Side Dreams, has written several award winning biographies to describe the community and the dreams the people share 2. Many of my students are the children of the East Side Dreamers 3, parents that have lived in San Jose for generations and still hold on to old traditions. Traditions that include the life of a gangster instead of a scholarly person, loitering in the city streets instead of improving the neighborhood and getting groceries from the local mercado instead of patronizing commercialized institutions. Many of the students have parents and grandparents that have migrated to San Jose from Mexico and other Latin American countries, for the manual labor jobs that the valley constantly offers. Several of the students are second and third generation members of the local Norteños and Sureños gangs that have been at odds for decades. In our neighborhood or barrio, you have to be very aware of what color you are wearing and whose block you are walking down. Our school has a climate of on–going tension as these adolescents try to create their own way and continue to honor family traditions, while staying within the social boundaries of public school.

These are the years when students start to question their role in society and society starts to expect them to behave in a more responsible manner. It is a constant game of Tug–of–War as the students pull against the rules and the rule makers' pull back. As the students age they come closer and closer to a point in life when they will be making choices about American politics. I find it quite disturbing that students do not understand the fundamental principles behind our country's democratic structure, specifically the role of a president. As future voters it is important to know the role and powers of the president, and what makes a great presidential leader.


Upon completion of this unit students will understand the role and function of a president. Students will understand the Early to Modern Times (500– 1789 A.D.) ideas that were used to create the role of the president. They will be able to answer the essential question of how the position entitled president was established. Student will understand the concept of hierarchy and how the presidential system was created to limit the power of a singular ruler. They will understand who the founding fathers were and why they created the position of president. Students will understand the role of president as outlined in the American, Mexican, and Gran Colombian constitutions. Students will understand the influence that the American presidential design had on the establishment of the presidential role in other republics, specifically Mexico in the 1850's and Gran Colombia. Finally students will understand why George Washington, Simon Bolivar, and Benito Juarez are considered examples of great historical presidents that are still celebrated for their accomplishments in current times.


Every year my students are given an opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to explore national monuments and learn more about this country's founding fathers. The teacher in charge of this trip campaigns all year in order to gather the minimum number of students to make this once in a lifetime trip a reality at our school. It amazes me that more students are not excited about this opportunity. In other communities students would be lining up and placed on a waiting list to attend such a profound event. Upon reflection I have come to realize that the lack of interest shown in our community may be due to a lack of understanding of the value of this opportunity.

I strongly believe that our students do not value this opportunity because they really don't know just how important our country's founding fathers were back then and still are today. Our school district gives the students a week off from school to remember the U.S. presidents and the impact that they have had on this country. Many of the students have no idea why we give them this week off. They are just excited to be out of school regardless of the reason. When I ask students what was important about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, most just shrug and say "I don't know, they were just some old eses or guys that did something for the country". I guess I should be happy that they know they were "guys that did something for the country", but I think it is important that they understand the impact on their live that these political leaders have made and continue to make. Students getting time off from school should understand the reasons why these leaders are celebrated and remembered by Americans. It is a common misperception that students growing up in this type of neighborhood are not aware of politics, however they are in an obscure way. They know that The President is in charge and makes rules. They believe that since he or she is in charge they can easily change anything they do not like or want for the people. That is why many of my students express their disappointment in the job that President Barack Obama has done because they believe he has lied and hasn't lived up to all his promises. My students complain all the time about the ways that they feel let down by Mr. Obama and his promises to the Latino community.

My students are excellent complainers they can give me numerous reasons why they should not have to do specific educational tasks. Given this natural skill of arguing their perspective I have decided that the best way to teach them about the role of a president is to give them enough knowledge about several exemplary ones, so that they can write a strong persuasive essay. Giving my students an opportunity to explore the development of the presidential position will help them understand why we celebrate the leaders that have had great success in that role. Leading a nation founded on the democratic principles that are giving them a chance to prosper in a way that their ancestors left their homeland to give them. Most of my students can look back one, two or even three generations and identify a relative that immigrated to America from another country to give them a better chance at life. Several of the students come from countries that have democratic nations set up to mimic the United States. If the students can learn about the similarities and differences then they maybe able to better appreciate their role in a powerful democratic nation.

Unfortunately, many of my students fall into a language category called Long Term English Learners or (LTEL). Laurie Olsen, Ph. D., defines Long Term English Learners as students that have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than six years, are no longer progressing towards English proficiency and are struggling academically 4. This challenge on top of the environmental challenges that my East Side students have has created a group of students that are reluctant in all academic areas, especially language arts. Working with this unique population I have discovered a need not only for stimulating curriculum, but also the implementation of teaching strategies that make lessons accessible for various language acquisition levels. Teaching strategies such as scaffolding the reading, using writing frames, and essential vocabulary development are some of the tools that will be used in this curriculum unit.

In California, seventh grade students must pass a writing test that includes the genre of persuasive writing. They are expected to use personal experience and expository materials given by the state examination board to create a strong five–paragraph essay. The five–paragraph essay must include an introduction, two paragraphs that support their position, a paragraph that counters their position and a conclusion paragraph. Seventh grade students are also studying world history during the Medieval to Early Modern times from 500– 1789 A.D. They are expected to understand the characteristics political and social hierarchy. This time period includes ideas, specifically European, that had a direct influence on the framework that was used to establish the position of president or chief executive. I feel that using multiple lessons to explore the development of the position of president and the background Washington, Bolivar and Juarez, all powerful leaders who are still celebrated, will give students the information necessary to create a strong persuasive essay to answer the question of which leader would make the best president.


In order to understand the complexity and importance of the new leadership role created in America, you must first understand the hierarchy roles that were used to mold the position. The Founding Fathers wanted to put safeguards in the newly formed position to avoid the pitfall of prior hierarchical systems.


Hierarchy is the arrangement of things, in this case people, in an order that shows who is above whom, who is at the same level, and who is below. Throughout history civilizations have found that they have needed a leadership hierarchy in order to create a civilized community. Someone had to give the civilization a direction and that would be a singular leader on the top. Next, would be a level that would have a larger number of people. People at this level would have a strong influence on the top level, such as church officials or senators, but theoretically not as much power. After you would have an even larger group of people that influence the level above them. The people in this group would most likely be the aristocrats and war heroes, people that the level above would like to appease. Finally, on the lowest level you would have the largest number of people with the least amount of power.

This organization method produces pyramids that show the most powerful persons on the top and the least powerful people on the bottom. See hierarchy diagram in the appendix. The person at the top is supposed to be the best–equipped person to make choices to satisfy the needs of the people below him or her. Persons in this highest position are given different names and different amounts of power based on the political system they represent. Titles that are given to the people at the highest position include king, emperor, caliph, khan, sultan, czar, and infinitely more titles with equally varying amounts of power. This unit is written to address seventh grade world history standards, which introduces students to the function of an emperor, a caliph, a khan and a king during the Medieval to Early Modern time period of 500– 1789 A.D.

Emperor's Hierarchy

Emperor is the title given to the person with the highest level of power in Early Modern imperial empires like China, Japan, Rome, Byzantine, Aztec and Incan empires. The Emperor is in charge of his or her subjects and believed to have a divine right to power. The divine right to power means the people holding this title believe they have a religious right to rule people below them. They believe they were born into a position of power and the only entity that they have to answer to is God or gods in their respective religions. This style of leadership has created many leaders who have ruled in a forceful manner, who did not take into account the feelings of the people.

Caliph's Hierarchy

Caliph is the title given to the person with the highest level of power in a system like certain views of the Muslim world. The Caliph is considered the head of the state and makes rules that all people in the land are expected to obey. The caliphate system like the imperial system believes that the caliph has the divine right to rule the people. One unique aspect is that the caliphs do not follow a strict lineage system for succession instead they are chosen based on a combination of factors. Shi'a Muslims believe that a caliph must be a direct descendant of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Shi'a Muslims followers believe that the leader has to be appointed by God and not the people. On the other hand, Sunni Muslims believe that a caliph can be chosen by the people. This more democratic view has been the cause of hundreds of years of conflict and power struggles. It can be argued that the people's will is considered in this type of ruling system, since the people believe the leaders have a God given right to power or the leader was chosen by the people.

Khan's Hierarchy

Khan is the title given to the person with the highest level of power in empires like the Mongolian Empire. The Khan is in charge of all the people below him or her and similar to an emperor have a birth right to power. Khans rule with an iron fist and keep order in their empire by using brut force.

King's Hierarchy

King is the title given to the person with the highest level of power in the systems such as the ones in Ghana, Mali, Persian, England, Spain, France, Olmec, and Mayan systems. The king is in charge of all the people in a system known as a monarchy. The king has absolute rule over his or her kingdom, however they are greatly influenced religious people that are arguably more powerful then the actual king. The position of king is obtained through birthrights and occasionally by forceful takeover of an empire. These are also monarchies in which the monarch's authority is not absolute, such as constitutional monarchies in Western Europe today.

Office of the President

Establishment of the presidential hierarchy

At the time when the American constitution was created the American people were looking for a way to create a new government different from anything that had been created in the past. They wanted to establish a government that was just as powerful as the European monarchies, but they did not want to oppress the people by giving them an all–powerful leader. A lot of thought and planning went into the creation of the new leadership role in America. The Constitution Convention started in the spring of 1787 and ended in the summer of 1787. From the Yale National Initiative summer session we learned that this convention was an arduous and momentous endeavor to create a political system that would satisfy the majority of people. The people's voice was being considered in the creation of a political system to represent them. Out of all the discussions came the new hierarchy position entitled the President of the United States of America.

The President or Commander in Chief, was given a tremendous amount of power and influence over the people. However, the founding fathers included a checks–and–balance system in the new republic. The system that they developed was more like a pyramid with three peaks at the top. The highest levels in this new hierarchy include the executive, legislative, and judicial groups 5. The executive peak includes the president and is responsible for the execution of the government. The legislative peak includes a Congress that is divided in two sections that make laws to govern the people. The judicial peak includes the Supreme Court that decides the legality of what the president executes and the legality of the legislature's laws. Even though the president sits on top of executive peak, the power that he or she has is ultimately affected by the two other peaks. This new system gives more power to the people that understand how it works.

Presidential Duties

The newly created position of president came with several well–defined and some vague job duties. The expectations of the president have also varied depending on what part of the world and what time period that they were presiding. No matter the difference there is a common theme of democratic freedom and the upholding of the people's will that can be found in all the positions. The presidential system has built in checks and balance in its tiered power system geared towards avoiding an all–powerful individual.

American Presidential Expectations

The American presidential job expectations have been specifically defined in The Constitution of the United States Article II. In summary Article II stated that the president has the power to execute all laws for a term of four years. Presidents are elected by members of The Elector College, that represent the will of the people when votes are cast The president must swear to do his or her best job in office and ensure that the rights outlined in the Constitution of the United Sates are being followed. In order to be a president a person must be a natural citizen, thirty–five years old, and have fourteen years of United States residency. Although the president does not make the laws he or she is expected to review all laws and have the option of approving or disapproving anything that he or she does not think is constitutional.

According to Clinton Rossiter, the American President has 11 distinct jobs in addition to upholding the constitution. The president is expected to be the Chief–of–State, Chief Executive, Commander–in–Chief, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Chief of Party, Manager of Prosperity, Protector of Peace, World Leader, President of the West, and Voice of the People 6. As Chief–of–State, he or she must represent the country and reflect the social values of the nation. As Chief Executive, he or she is expected to execute all laws and develop an execution team that is appropriate for the current national sentiment. As Commander–in–Chief, he or she is expected to lead the nations defense teams to ensure public safety. As Chief Diplomat, he or she is expected to maintain diplomacy between the United States and other nations. As Chief Legislator, he or she is expected to examine and approve the logic of all laws. As Chief of Party, he or she is expected to be the leader of their political party. The president has to make sure that his or her party maintains the public's favor. As Manager of Prosperity, he or she is seen as the person responsible for the nation's economic situation. The president must make choices that will keep Americans employed and able to live a prosperous life. As Protector of Peace, he or she is expected to maintain a peaceful situation throughout the nation. The president is a father or mother figure that must keep its children safe. As World Leader, he or she is expected to set the political example for other nations. As President of the West, he or she is seen as the leader of the Western world and makes decisions that reflect Western attitudes. Finally, he or she is the Voice of the People, they are expected to understand what the public wants and stir the nation in that direction.

Mexican Presidential Expectations

During the time of Benito Juarez the country followed the constitution that was drafted by the Congress of Mexico in 1857 7. The Constitution of 1857 states that a president is

the chief of government, head of the Revolutionary coalition, and the single individual with supreme executive power 8. "In order to be chosen, an individual must be male, 35 years old by election day, and a native–born citizen who is the son of Mexicans, themselves citizens by both, and must have resided in the country a full year." 9 The president starts his or her term in office on December 1 st and remains in office for four years 10. The Supreme Court Justice takes over if the president needs to take a leave of absence. If the president will not becoming back into office then, another election is held and the new president stays in office for the remainder of the first presidents term. The president must get the approval of Congress before he or she is allowed to resign from the position because of serious matters. If a new president is not selected and the public is not notified prior to the December 1 st deadline, then the Supreme Court Justice becomes the temporary president. The Mexican president takes an oath of office promising to be fair, patriotic, follow the constitution, look out for the good of the people and ensure prosperity to the nation. The president is supposed to direct diplomatic negotiations and create treaties to keep the nation safe. 11

The president is expected to only take actions that fall within his or her political boundaries. In anything that is done outside the boundaries needs a qualifying reason in Congress and would violate the political structure. 12 The president is expected to enact and follow all laws issued by the Congress of the Union. The president is allowed to appoint and freely remove Secretaries of Office, ministers, diplomatic agents, consul Generals and other Union employees who are not protected by constitutional law. The president is viewed as the union leader and must greet visiting Ministers and other foreign powers. The president is expected to have strong military influence and is allowed to make appointments with the approval of Congress. "Not only are there powers of appointment but there is also the authority to order troops movements relating to internal security and external defense." 13. Mexican presidents are allowed to declare war if they feel it is necessary to protect the Federation. The president can grant pardons, according to the law, to criminals that have been sentences to Federal crimes.

Gran Colombia Presidential Expectations

The presidential expectations in this region are best summarized in the Bolivian Constitution that was created by Simon Bolivar on November 26, 1826. Even though this constitution was never fully adopted, it gives the best representation of the presidential expectations during the time period. The democratic government was split into four branches of power, Electoral, Legislative, Executive and Judicial. The executive or president was expected to be an active citizen and native of Bolivia. The president must be 35 years of age and have rendered important services to the Republic. 14 They were expected to be skilled leaders and have never been convicted of a crime.

In the constitution Bolivar created he says the presidential position that was held for the president's lifetime. Bolivar contended that although the presidential expectations are similar to that of the United States, he saw the U.S. system as flawed by the term in office being limited 15. Instead he wanted to follow the model of Haiti, since it had a lifetime president that created a sense of tranquility in the country. Similar to the United States the constitution only gave voting rights to the literate, elite, and privileged people. Bolivar felt he had placed enough checks in the new constitutions political structure to avoid president taking on a monarchial role, because the president had no influence of the election of people at the judicial level. The constitution reflected Bolivar's concerns about the mob mentality of large groups of people given power. 16 Bolivar put the president in more of a dictator position than the United States presidency even though the Bolivian Constitution put some very strict limitations on the president. The president did not create the laws or chose judicial members in this form of government instead he or she had a strong influence over the legislative powers. The president was a symbol of freedom and the will of the people. The president was expected to lead the country in a direction that promoted equality and freedom for all.

Compare and Contrast Presidential Duties

Similarities in the American, Mexican and Gran Colombian Presidents

The presidents in all three countries are expected to make decisions that affect all of the people in their country. Like the American president the Mexican and Gran Colombian presidents were in charge of upholding the constitution and keeping peace in the nation. The presidents are all seen as role models that must represent their country in an honorable manner, especially during matter of diplomacy. The presidents in all three countries have limited power to create legislation, however they had a strong influence on the lawmakers. All of the countries describe the ideal president as a person with strong leadership skills and the ability to unite the nations. The three presidents are seen by the people as a symbol of the nations strength and are expected to bring prosperity to the nations.

Differences in American, Mexican, and Gran Colombian Presidents

A major difference between the United States presidency and the Latin American presidencies is the amount of power the president developed. In the United States, George Washington stuck to his role of servant to the people and did not waver much over his boundary of power. In contrast, Benito Juarez started out with enough power to be a singular ruler and eventually Simon Bolivar took on more of a dictator's role. Simon Bolivar was fighting hard to keep his dream of a vast republic unified. At this time Gran Colombia included what is now Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador, parts of Peru and parts of Brazil. This vast territory needed strong leadership in order to keep the nation together. The president in this region was a single powerful president. The position was created as a middle ground between U.S. Presidential powers and the British/Spanish monarchy. The president was given much more power than the American president. An assembly established the Second Republic and it granted Bolivar "supreme power" to prevent the division that undermined the First Republic. 17

In Mexico the elections are done by direct popular vote, unlike the Electoral College system that is used in the United States and The Bolivian Constitution. 18 The Mexican president also had the power to declare war, a stark difference from the United States president that has to follow strict rules of engagement.

Iconic Leadership

George Washington, Benito Juarez, and Simon Bolivar are all considered iconic leaders. They have each been memorialized with national holidays, statues, museums, and in several other ways. In order to understand why the role that they played as a president was so memorable one must first understand who they were, why they were chosen, what they accomplished, and impression they left on the world.

George Washington

Life prior to the presidency

George Washington was born in Virginia to a rich planter on February 22, 1732. He was a very athletic man and a gentleman landowner. He had a large plantation and like most other Americans he was upset by the way England was treating Americans. He led a fighting force that was formed by ordinary Americans who wanted to protect their colonies from the British Armies. The British Army or Red Coats as they were called were highly trained and successful soldiers. They were an intimidating group of men and it took a special kind of leader to guide these novice soldiers to victory. George Washington was the special leader that helped the Americans defeat mighty England. His efforts were celebrated and he was seen as an important militiaman. "Washington's heroism and charismatic leadership during the Revolutionary War made him America's most respected hero." 19

Colonial America

Before the time of George Washington's presidency The United States included the Thirteen Colonies ruled by England. The colonies were Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The 13 British colonies had just finished a bitter battle with mighty England. Heavy taxation and merciless ruling created the friction that led to the desire for the 13 colonies to form their own union. This tyrannical ruling style and the prospect of freedom was the main incentive for people to fight under the leadership of George Washington. This infant country needed a strong leader to keep the people united in a battle that at times appeared impossible to win. The country was surrounded by powerful neighbors such as France in the northern regions and Spain in the southern regions. These powerful nations could have easily sided with the British forces to stop the American Revolution or decided to invade the colonies place them under their rule.

Why Washington was chosen

George Washington was encouraged to run and eventually unanimously selected to be the American president because he symbolized strength, leadership, and stability. In a letter to Washington in 1782, Colonel Lewis Nicola said that he and other soldiers wanted their wartime commander to be king. 20 This was the exact form of leadership that the new colonies fought to end. The slightest suggestion that the colonies have a king was the cause of several heated arguments during the Constitutional Convention. The Constitutional Convention was a series of debates about the establishment of a new form of government to unite the 13 colonies. Over the course of four months, several brilliant minds gathered to create a strong central government that focused on a balanced system that did not create a single all–powerful person. George Washington was the perfect man because he showed that he could be flexible and work towards a balanced nation. Some scholars would even argue that the position of president and its subsequent expectations were modeled after the leadership style of Washington. Washington was man that knew his place in politics and did not venture into directions that he was not well versed. This characteristic was evident in his quiet demeanor during the Constitutional Convention. He let people with more philosophical minds run the discussions. Washington knew that he was taking on a historical position when he accepted the job of president and worked hard to make sure that he established traditions that would lead to the success of the nation.

Presidential accomplishments

During Washington's time as president he had several accomplishments. He accomplished the establishment of presidential traditions, maintained peace in the infant nation, and helped stabilize the union. If Washington had not been able to do this then the United States of America that we know today may not have ever happened. "We are lucky that he lived when he did and was enabled by his contemporaries to accomplish so much for the lasting benefit of the United States." 21 A chaotic nation would have been a prime target for neighboring countries wishing to secure the countries vast riches. Washington also knew that everything he did from how he presented himself to how he handled challenges would set a precedent for the office of the president. He took great care in making sure that he presented himself to the people in a presidential manner and followed the etiquette rules of that time. It would be decades before a president would be seen behaving in a way that Washington would consider relaxed. Washington started the tradition of staying in office for a total of eight years or two terms. This was not because the people did not want him there longer, but because he was growing weary of the role and did not want to have future presidents taking on the role for long periods of time. Even though this was not a formal rule the tradition of serving for two years stayed consistent until Franklin D. Roosevelt. Washington accomplished his goals of providing stability, peace and unification to the new nation. It can be argued that is focus on stability and peace in the nation is evident in his famous Neutrality Proclamation of 1793.

Lasting impression

George Washington was the only president to be elected unanimously, not once but twice, shows how much early American trusted his leadership skills. George Washington is still remembered as a man of great courage and strength, because of his trailblazing actions. School children grow up hearing the stories of his honesty and virtue, even though we can argue he was not because of his secret agent spying skills in the military and ownership of slaves, this is still the overall sentiment about his character. He is the image of democracy and all the hopes people have placed in the presidential system. He is remembered on currency, in public sculptures and in other memorabilia. His home has been turned in to a museum that is visited by hundreds of people each year. He has a state and district named in his honor. Countless cities, streets and public facilities are named in his honor.

Benito Juarez

Life prior to presidency

Benito Juarez, a man of indigenous origins, lost his parents at an early age and was a domestic servant for a wealthy family. 22 The family helped Benito with his education and he eventually became a lawyer. This was a major accomplishment because a man of his origins was and not expected to be educated, let alone achieve a higher education. Juarez used his knowledge to study law and fight the injustices that he felt were happening to his people. He worked his way up the political system, first as a governor and then a key member of the newly emerging liberal party. In the liberal group he was an outspoken member and voiced his opinion that Mexico should have a liberal revolution. 23 He wrote a set of law called Ley Juarez (Law of Juarez), which led to the new federalist Constitution of 1857. 24 This Constitution of 1857 created limits on the power of the church and wealthy that had been ruining Mexico according to Juarez. 25

1850's Mexico

Mexico in the 1850's was a land undergoing vast revisions. The country had just lost more than half of its territory in the Mexican–American War, leaving the Mexican people with the land that we see today. The remaining territory of Mexico was still desired by foreign nations because of its vast amount of riches, namely silver. Mexico had president after president in the unorganized nation. Bandits and Civil Wars were rampant in the country filled with chaos. The French wanted to finally bring control to Mexico and sent over Maximilian to be emperor of Mexico. 26 Maximilian came to Mexico with the belief that the Mexican people wanted him there to bring order to their country. 27 He was told the people were looking forward to his rule and would welcome him with open arms. To Maximilian's surprise Benito Juarez and the Mexican people were not happy with the prospect of being ruled by a foreign nation again.

Why Juarez was chosen

Benito Juarez started his reputation as a man for the people at an early stage in his career. He would often defend poor Indians for free and this started his image as a trustworthy man. 28 Benito Juarez soon became a well–respected political figure because of his honest and efficient politics as governor of Oaxaca. 29 He moved up in political power and maintained his image as a leader that fought for the people. Dictators like Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had been living a lavish lifestyle and selling off much of Mexico's land to pay his debts. 30 This angered people like Benito Juarez who were actively involved in fighting to liberate the country. He wanted something better for the people and rallied support to drive out feudalistic organizations. 31 For years people that believed in Juarez's ideas fought by his side in the Reform War that lasted from 1858–1861. 32 Ultimately, Juarez and his liberals defeated the conservatives, making his the first constitutional president of Mexico. Juarez becoming president was a major change for the region that had been ruled by the social elite for decades.

Presidential Accomplishments

Benito Juarez was a popular president and served five terms in office. He brought stability to a nation that had been in disarray for several years. Following the Constitution of 1857, that he helped create he brought new liberties to his people. The constitution granted people freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom from aristocratic titles, freedom to assembly, freedom of education and equality to all people. 33 Juarez is also well–known for fending off the French that wanted to turn Mexico into a Catholic monarchy. 34 In the famous Battle of Puebla in 1862, Juarez helped his untrained troops defeat the French. The French army had much better weapons and more military skills than Juarez's army. They should have easily defeated the Mexican rebels, but Juarez was able to lead his people armed with only farming tools and determination to victory over the French. 35 Benito helped to rebuild Mexico after years of war and foreign rule. He made it safe to transport goods by improving the police patrols and adding railroad service to the land. 36 This improvements and stability enable Mexico to remain a free and eventually become a powerful nation.

Lasting Impressions

He helped to bring order to a nation that had been in chaos for many years. He helped to foster Mexico's prestige and improved the countries relations with important nations like the United States of America. 37 The Battle of Puebla that was won on May 5 th 1862 is still celebrated by Mexican people all over the world. He is remembered in statues throughout Mexico and other memorabilia. Ciudad Juarez is a city near the Texas border that was named to honor Benito Juarez. He symbolizes strength, liberty, and Mexican Pride.

Simon Bolivar

Life prior to presidency

Simon Bolivar was a man of means early in life. His parents were successful Creole plantation owners in Venezuela. 38 Since he was born into wealth he had a privileged life that included a high quality education and military training. 39 After the death of his beloved wife he went to Paris to study government. At that time France was going through its own revolution being lead by Napoleon Bonaparte. Simon Bolivar began to reflect on this situation as he studied books on the Enlightenment and American Revolution. "His liberal education, wide reading, and travels in Europe had broadened his horizons and opened his mind to the political thinkers of France and Britain." 40 This new knowledge made him want to free his homeland from Spanish rule. He felt that freedom was worth dying for and he fought to free all people regardless of status or color. 41

Gran Colombia

During the time prior to Simon Bolivar's revolution, Spain controlled the region. The Spanish king was Ferdinand VII, who ruled briefly in 1808 and later from 1814–1833. King Ferdinand the VII's latter rule was surrounded in controversy. 42 This tumultuous time was the prefect opportunity for revolution minded Simon Bolivar to ascend to the newly created position of president. Simon Bolivar was a thinker and wanted to establish democratic ideas in his land. 43 He was unhappy with the Spanish for a variety of reasons, namely the fact that the Spanish colony only let people born in Spain hold important positions. Creoles, people that has Spanish parents, but were born in the colony could only have lesser positions. 44 Most creoles in the colony resented this and Simon Bolivar was a Creole. "On July 5, 1811, the Caracas Junta declared independence for Venezuela, the first such declaration anywhere in Spanish South America." 45 This first republic was created to model U.S. Constitutional ideas, which divided the nation into central government and small states. The central government was weak and this First Republic, as it is called was defeated by Spain and royalist troops. This was a chaotic time for the region that was trying to achieve the freedom that the United States had established when it broke free of British rule.

Why Bolivar was chosen

Simon was chosen unanimously by Colombia's Congress to be the first president because of his success in the battlefield and his dedication to liberating his people. 46 People were impressed with his military prowess because he was defeating the Spain in a series of small battles. 47 From 1812 until well into his presidency Simon Bolivar was actively fighting to liberate countries. He became known as The Great Liberator or El Libertador and he appointed himself president. Along with liberation he brought hope to the people and new civil liberties.

Presidential accomplishments

Simon Bolivar is arguably the most famous president in Latin America. Some historians remember him a great revolutionary leader, while others say he was a traitor that need not be remember. He was considered a traitor because over time he slowly developed more of a dictator's style of leadership rather than the style of a liberal president like the American presidents he originally admired. "In spite of his preference for a political over a military solution, in spite of his long search for constitutional forms, he fell back in the end on personal authority, ruling through a dictatorship and co–opting the caudillos into a system which appealed to their own instincts on government." 48 In either case, we know that he did rule as president of a vast territory know as Gran Colombia. Combining and ruling such a large territory was an accomplishment in itself. In addition, he successfully liberated several Latin American countries from the Spanish rulers that had dominated the land. Like George Washington he was a general and respected military leader. Similar to George Washington he gathered a group of unlikely military men and heroically defeated a powerful European army. In fact he modeled himself so much after George Washington that he used to wear similar military attire. Simon Bolivar also wrote the Bolivian Constitution that was used as a model constitution for other South American countries. His ideas were seen as very progressive and are arguable too liberal even for modern times. 49

Lasting impressions

Bolivar is remembered because we have a country named after him, Bolivia. Statues erected in his memory can be found throughout Latin America and other countries. City and currency are named after him. Copies of his political ideas still circulate, and debates still occur about his historical significance. The overall impression is that he was a man of courage and conviction to go after the dreams that he had for Latin America.


With the evolution of mankind came the evolution of the style of leadership. All three of these men were great leaders to some degree. They each had the courage to pioneer a new leadership position at an early stage of development. Who did a better job and if the position is really better than the hierarchy systems in the past is still up for endless debate.

Content Objectives

This cross–curriculum unit focuses on political structure and persuasive writing. Upon completion of the unit students will have addressed content objectives in English Language Arts and History Social Science. According to California English Language Arts Content Standard 2.4 for 7 th grade students should be able to write persuasive compositions. 50 This unit will provide students with an opportunity to develop a position and ultimately write a persuasive argument about the significance of one of the three historical figures. According to the California History Social Science Content Standards 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 7.10, 7.11 for 7 th grade students should be able to analyze the political structure of civilizations. 51 Political structure is an essential concept that students must grasp in order to take a position on the significance that the three historical figures had during their presidency.

Teaching Strategies

In order to make the writing process accessible to students of varying writing abilities this curriculum unit focuses on teaching strategies such as sentence frames, vocabulary development, content chunking, gradual release, and philosophical chairs. Sentence frames are sentences that the teacher creates and leaves blanks to give the students a chance to decide the best words to use to complete the sentence. This method provides reluctant writers with a structure that will help them start to formulate ideas on the topic. This helps to meet the challenging needs of English learners by incorporating content and academic language into one lesson. 52 Content chunking is a way to split new information into smaller and more meaningful parts that are easier for the students to comprehend. The teacher can gradually build up a students know so that they can understand multi–layered content such as the structure of political systems. Gradual Release of Responsibility method created by Douglas Fisher, PhD, suggests that struggling students will learn best if topics are introduced using the pattern I do, we do, you do together, and you do alone, this give the students guided practice in the implementation of a new skill set. 53 The teacher models the best practices (I do), the teacher will use an equity method to get the whole class involved (we do), students work in small groups (you do together), and finally individuals complete the new skill alone (you do alone). Lastly, a philosophical chairs activity gives students a chance to share ideas orally on the writing topic and strengthen his or her position statements. This lesson is designed to help students with their critical thinking skills. Students that can articulate position statements orally tend to have an easier time expressing ideas in the written form. 54 This is not an exhausted list of teaching strategies that could be used in the implementation of this unit.

Classroom Activities

Lesson 1 Essential Vocabulary Development (multiple days)

Prior to any reading activities the students will do vocabulary development lessons to make reading historical documents easier. The essential vocabulary that the students must understand for the unit includes: hierarchy, democracy, government, preside, president, judicial, legislative, accomplishment, colony, revolution, and memorial. This does not exhaust the list of words and may need to be increased depending on the need of individual students. Introduce the students to the new vocabulary by using a teacher created Power Point or vocabulary cards. The Power Point or vocabulary cards should have visual examples and a student friendly definition of each word. The teacher should pronounce the words then have the students chorally repeat the words. In small groups that students can practice saying and defining the words. Students can create vocabulary flashcards that have the definition on one side and the word with a visual clue on the other side. The students can do quiz and trade activities in small groups throughout the writing unit to solidify understanding of the new terminology. Quiz and trade can be done in groups of four students. Students will take turns using his or her flashcards to quiz the other members in the group on the pronunciation, definition or usage of the vocabulary word. Ultimately, students can use the vocabulary flashcards to quiz themselves on the new word meanings.

Lesson 2 Content Development (multiple days)

In order to give the students the back ground knowledge necessary to write a persuasive paper they will need to have content knowledge on the subject. Teaching the content on this topic should be done in small chunks over multiple days. The students need to first understand the concept of hierarchy. Gradual release methods could be used to show the students the hierarchy model and structure in general using a well known political structure like the education system. The teacher can use the hierarchy diagram to place different people in his or her correct location on the pyramid. Once the students have seen the teacher complete a hierarchy pyramid the students can help the teacher complete a pyramid on another political structure that the students have studied or will study in the social studies textbook. Next the students can be placed in small groups and given a change to label a pyramid showing the political structure of yet another political structure in the social science textbook. Finally, the students can work individually to complete a hierarchy pyramid on a political structure not previously covered. Once the students have an understanding of hierarchy in general the teacher can show the class how the presidential hierarchy system is a little different. This difference can be built upon as the students learn more about the three presidents.

Teaching the students about each president can be done in learning stations. The students can rotate throughout the classroom and read excepts or chunks of material about each political figure. The excepts or chunks may include youthful books, magazine articles and other print materials. As the students rotate through each station they can do a variety of activities to solidify their understanding of each president. The can draw pictures, answers comprehension questions, highlight similarities/differences or essential vocabulary in primary resource handouts, and label territory maps.

Lesson 3 Position Development (single day)

After the students have completed the presidential stations activities they should have enough information about the presidents to develop an initial position statement. They need to write down the statement using a sentence frame created by the teacher. The frame maybe as simple as, I believe _________ was the best president because ________. More advanced students can be given multiple sentence frames or even paragraph frames to use to create a position. Once position statements are created a modified philosophical chairs lesson will give the students a chance to participate in a structured debate to help them develop strengthen their position statements for the essay. Arrange the classroom desk into a U shape and have them sit in grouping based on the president they feel was the better leader. Give all the students a chance to share their position statements with the class. As the students share statements they should be allowed to take notes and alter the original statement. If a student is swayed by another student's argument about a president they may decide to move to sit with a different group. After all positions have been heard the students should have enough information to create a strong persuasive paper about the political figure.

Lesson 4 Writing Process (multiple days)

Now that the students have developed background knowledge on all three presidents and have created a strong position statement they can begin the writing process. The teacher should use gradual release methods to model for students how to use an essay frame. The essay frame will give the students the structure that they need to create a complete five–paragraph essay. The students will complete multiple drafts and can finish the assignment by turning in a word processed version that includes a cover picture of the president that they favored. The picture could be one that was created during the presidential stations activity.




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  1. Great Schools,
  2. Rodriguez, Art
  3. Rodriguez, Art coined the term East Side Dreams, East Side Dreamers is a play–on his word
  4. Olsen, Laurie
  5. The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription, 7/16/2012
  6. Roisser, Clinton
  7. Instituto de Investigationes Juridicas –1857 Constitution
  8. Instituto de Investigationes Juridicas –1857 Constitution, Article 75
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  10. Constitucion Politica de la Republica Mexicana de 1857, Article 78
  11. Padgett, L. V., The Mexican Political System
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  13. Padgett, Vincent L. The Mexican Political System, page 199
  14. El Libertador Writings of Simon Bolivar, page 75
  15. El Libertador Writings of Simon Bolivar, page 57
  16. Bolivarian constitution summary –
  17. Lynch, J., Simon Bolivar and the Spanish American Revolutions, page 7
  18. Padgett, L. V., The Mexican Political System
  19. Fabber, 2000
  20. Lindop, 1995
  21. Musto, D.F., George Washington and the Temptation of the Political Life, page 23
  22. Suchlicki, J. Mexico, page 75
  23. Roeder, R. Juarez and his Mexico, page 15
  24. Foster, L. A Brief History of Mexico, page 129
  25. Foster, L. A Brief History of Mexico, page 129
  26. Ridley, J. Maximilian and Juarez, page 21
  27. Ridley, J. Maximilian and Juarez, page 22
  28. Stefoff, R. Independence and Revolution in Mexico 1810–1940, page 76
  29. Foster, L. A Brief History of Mexico, page 128
  30. Suchlicki, J. Mexico, page 74
  31. Suchlicki, J. Mexico, page 76
  32. Foster, L. A Brief History of Mexico, page 130–131
  33. Stefoff, R. Independence and Revolution in Mexico 1810–1940, page 78
  34. Sfefoff, R. Independence and Revolution in Mexico 1810–1940, page 82
  35. Smart, C Viva Juarez! A biography, page 120
  36. Stefoff, R. Independence and Revolution in Mexico 1810– 1940, page 86–87
  37. Suchlicki, J. Mexico From Montezuma to the Rise of the PAN, page 90
  38. Lynch, J Simon Bolivar: A Life, page 7
  39. Lynch, J. Simon Bolivar: A Life, page 16
  40. Lynch, J., Simon Bolivar and the Spanish American Revolutions,
  41. Lynch, J. Simon Bolivar: A Life, page 41
  42. Colombia Electronic Encyclopedia, King of Spain Ferdinand VII
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  50. California Department of Education accessed 7/29/12, page 45
  51. California Department of Education accessed 7/29/12, page 28–32
  52. Welcome to Constructing Meaning
  53. Program Research A Gradual Release of Responsibility
  54. Philosophical Chairs presented by Andara MacDonald, Ph.D.

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