Not just anyone can become Commander in Chief. At least these days. The authors of the Constitution made this very clear by laying out some strict criteria to follow: You must be no younger than 35 years, you must have been born in the United States and you must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. Assuming you fit this description, and receive enough votes in the Electoral College come election day, you can be president. But not for more than two four-year terms.
[executive] Today, some of these provisions are being questioned by our society: Why can’t a foreign-born citizen become president of the United States, and are term limits really necessary? Around campus, however, it appears few students disagree with these requirements.
Ashley Dies shrugged at the idea of changing the number of terms a president may serve. The natural science sophomore was a little less apathetic about the possibility of one day allowing a foreign-born citizen to take office. After a “determined length” residency as a citizen, she said, someone born in another country should be able to be president.
And what about those younger than the specified 35? “As long as they have enough experience,” chemistry senior Franky Nguyen said. Dies agreed, although, “I wouldn’t want someone as young as my brother being president,” she said of her 18-year-old sibling.
But Dies doesn’t have to worry about her brother ruling the free world just yet. Political science professor David Rohde said changes to presidential requirements aren’t likely to occur anytime soon. It’s “very hard to change the Constitution,” he explained. It requires a two-thirds vote in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as a three-fourths vote among the states.
After all, these requirements were placed in the Constitution for a reason. According to associate American history professor Tom Summerhill, the writers wanted to ensure the president would be “an older, more experienced and presumably wiser man (or woman)…”
“The requirement that one be born in the U.S. was designed to insure that whoever sat in the president’s office would be de facto ‘American’ and therefore less corruptible by foreign interests,” he said.
Some Americans might argue that a President Schwarzenegger or Granholm might not only be more sympathetic to their home countries (Austria and Canada, respectively), but be more likely to betray the United States for their homelands. “I don’t think it should matter,” Irie Brown, pre-med freshman, said about the possibility of a President Schwarzenegger. “If he’s fit for the job, it shouldn’t matter where he came from.”
But term limits were not originally in the Constitution. George Washington decided to serve only two terms, believing a single citizen should not hold the position for more than eight years. “Until 1940, presidents honored that precedent and stepped down after their second terms [if they were reelected],” Summerhill said. In 1940, he explained, President Roosevelt sought his third term and won. He went on to win a fourth term later. Despite the crises faced throughout Roosevelt’s four terms (the Great Depression, followed by World War II), “many thought that this was dangerous to political democracy,” Summerhill said. Hence, the 22nd amendment was passed in 1951 limiting the president to two terms.
Supporting or opposing longer term limits might have to do with how one voted in last November’s election. When asked whether she thought President George W. Bush should be allowed to have a third term, Brown smiled. “No!”
For all presidential hopefuls out there, it looks like you won’t be able to run any sooner than age 35, or seek more than one re-election, despite rumors of an evolving set of presidential standards. But, at least when you do, you won’t have to debate with the Terminator.

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