Of the last 12 presidents of the United States, 12 have been elected without college degrees. Yet, despite these lack of degrees, they have made significant contributions to the growth of the nation. Although a college degree is still a prerequisite for securing a dream job, those who lack a degree shouldn’t give up. Rather, they should strategize and carve a clear path toward their goals.
George W. Bush
Despite the fact that he received his undergraduate degree from Yale, George W. Bush is the most recent U.S. president without a college degree. His father and grandfather both attended Yale. In 1968, George H.W. Bush ran for Senate as a freshman. He received more votes than any other Republican in Texas history, but came up short in the general election. While in college, Bush helped his father’s campaign and gained some experience in grassroots politics.
While attending school, Bush participated in intramural sports with gusto. He also became president of Delta Kappa Epsilon, the campus’s hardest-drinking club. While he wasn’t a natural class leader, he was an enthusiastic participant in the school’s extracurricular activities. He even organized a stickball league for his classmates. At the time, stickball had been played on campus only casually. But Bush turned it into a serious sport and organized campus teams. At Yale, he was also arrested for disorderly conduct.
The first time Bush ran for office was in 1978. He failed to win the congressional seat he sought, but eventually went on to run for president. His political philosophy was described as compassionate conservatism – combining traditional Republican economic policies with concern for the poor and vulnerable. He refused to answer questions about his drinking habits, but nevertheless won the Republican nomination for president. His primary campaign focused on issues such as education, juvenile justice, welfare, and tort reform. Then, in 2000, Bush defeated Republican nominees John McCain and Vice President Al Gore.
Though it is difficult to get a job in politics without a college degree, it’s not impossible. Several presidents without a college degree have been elected. In fact, the U.S. Constitution has no specific requirement for the education of the president.
Before he was elected as president, Bush was not even a college graduate. His father, George H.W. Bush, sold his company and moved to Texas. He met Cathryn Wolfman, a student at Rice University in Houston. The two were engaged and had plans to marry in the summer. They later decided to postpone their wedding and split up, but Wolfman has recently hinted that they split amicably.
Besides being the 41st U.S. president, George Herbert Walker Bush has an impressive resume that is worthy of praise. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. His father did not pursue a college degree, but his father’s background and upbringing inspired him to follow in his footsteps. After the war, Bush moved to Texas and became the 46th Governor of Texas.
While most U.S. presidents have college degrees, George W. Bush is the most recent president to hold the office without a degree. He attended Yale University and majored in history, focusing on European and American history. He also took a course on the Soviet Union and studied the war between freedom and tyranny. While he was studying, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He also belonged to the secret Skull and Bones society.
Martin Van Buren
In addition to his lack of a college degree, Martin Van Buren was the first American president born without a college degree. He was born in Kinderhook, New York, and grew up speaking Dutch. He learned English at school and trained to become a lawyer. He joined the Democratic-Republican party, but led the Bucktails faction. His ties to Andrew Jackson helped him win the Democratic nomination in 1836.
Van Buren attended college and law school in New York City before returning home to Kinderhook, New York, where he opened a practice with his half-brother, James Van Alen. He also married Hannah Hoes, his cousin, in 1807, and they had four children together. Hannah Hoes died in 1819, but their three sons survived.
Martin Van Buren’s family was not rich. He was the fourth child of five children, including three half-sisters. His mother, Hannah, died young from tuberculosis. His father, Abram, was a tavern keeper and had six slaves at one time. His father, Abraham, owned a tavern and inn in Kinderhook. The tavern served government workers traveling between Albany and New York City.
As president, Van Buren made some controversial decisions during his tenure. He was in favor of the transfer of 20,000 Cherokees to Oklahoma, but he also ordered the removal of 3500 Seminole Indians from Florida. The Seminole War cost 1500 lives.
In 1814, the Federalist party was gaining steam and threatened to overwhelm the Democratic-Republican majority. Van Buren was concerned about the brewing problems in the Democratic-Republican Party, which had a significant presence in New York.
In 1812, Van Buren ran for a seat in the New York State Senate. His main issues were the Bank of the United States and a pending war with Great Britain over maritime rights. He narrowly won two terms in the state legislature (1812-20). He also served as New York state attorney general.
After Van Buren ran for office, he supported William Crawford, a Georgian who shared his Jeffersonian political views. However, Crawford finished third in the electoral college. The other candidates Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were not able to secure enough electoral votes. The election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Jackson’s supporters argued that this was a corrupt deal. They vowed to win the 1828 election.
Andrew Jackson named Martin Van Buren Secretary of State in 1829. He then served as American minister to Great Britain. He also visited The Netherlands, the land of his forebears, and met Queen Elizabeth II. In 1832, Jackson asked him to serve as his Vice President. After Jackson won the election, he chose him as his running mate and was elected President.
The battle with Clinton dominated New York state politics during Van Buren’s first term. He gained a reputation as a political opportunist after he was appointed attorney general of New York in 1816. He also struggled against Clinton, who became New York governor in 1817. In 1817, Van Buren held the attorney general post for two years, but lost it to Clinton forces.
Taylor was born in Orange County, Virginia, and raised on a tobacco plantation outside Louisville, Kentucky. He received a rudimentary education but quickly rose through the ranks. He served in the War of 1812, was a brigadier general, and had extensive experience in frontier life.
Taylor was popular in his day. His military service in the Mexican-American War made him a national hero. He was also the son of a successful farmer, and was elected president as the nation’s 12th president without a college degree. Unfortunately, Taylor died just sixteen months after taking office.
Taylor’s presidency came at a time when the nation faced an important sectional debate over slavery. His anti-slavery Free Soil Party helped to increase the tensions between southerners and the abolitionist north. In addition, his stance on the expansion of slavery in the West fueled a controversy over California statehood.
Taylor was born in a cabin in the woods on the Ohio River, but moved to a brick house when his fortunes turned. His predecessors included George Washington and John Quincy Adams, but none of them obtained a college degree. They did, however, get a surveyor’s certificate from The College of William and Mary, and Bill Clinton attended the University of Oxford.
While it’s not compulsory for a president to have a college degree, the fact that it’s possible to become president without a college degree is an impressive accomplishment. There have been no presidents since Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman who were not college graduates.
While most of the presidents of the United States have earned college degrees, there are presidents without degrees who have achieved great success. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are examples of individuals who are successful without a college degree. Although these two presidents didn’t go to college, they did attend Columbia Law School.
Taylor’s brief presidency was filled with problems and scandals. He opposed the creation of new slave states, and demanded California to be admitted as a state. This was met with fierce opposition from southerners in Congress. He also opposed a compromise bill between admitting California and abolishing the slave trade in Washington, D.C. Other issues included financial improprieties by three members of his cabinet.
Andrew Johnson and Harry Truman are also examples of presidential leaders who lacked a college degree. Both men were unschooled as children. Their education was obtained through work and friends. Johnson was sent to a tailor’s apprentice school at age 10 and was taught basic reading and writing skills by a fellow employee. He also developed his speech skills while working at the tailor’s shop.
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