America's Diplomat: The Secretary of State

America's Diplomat: The Secretary of State
Louisa Adams: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods

Required Documents
Secretary of State worksheet.doc
Accomplishments .doc
Standards Compliance
NCSS Strand 6
Power, Authority, and Governance
NCTE Standard 7
Students conduct research by generating ideas, questions, and problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data.
NCTE Standard 8
Students use a variety of technology and information resources to gather, synthesize, and communicate knowledge.
ISTE Standard 5
Technology research tools


John Quincy Adams was the son of the Second President John Adams. He seemed destined for a life in public office from an early age. He spent a large portion of his life in Europe on diplomatic assignments from several United States presidents. He was married to his wife Eliza, a British born citizen, in 1797 in England. She proved a wonderful asset in the couple’s diplomatic life because of her European upbringing. John Quincy Adams was appointed to the office of Secretary of State under President James Monroe. He became one of the United States’ most effective Secretaries of State by arranging with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon country, obtaining from Spain the cession of the Floridas, and formulating with the President the Monroe Doctrine.


1.  The students will be able to accurately describe the role of the Secretary of State in the United States Government.
2.  The students will be able to identify some important historical accomplishments negotiated by various Secretaries of State.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; the Secretary of State Worksheet; the Accomplishments of Some Secretaries of State Worksheet.


1.  The teacher will distribute one half sheet of paper to each student and ask them to define the role of the United States Secretary of State. This activity will serve a dual purpose as a pretest and a discussion starter. The teacher will ask for volunteers to share their answers and the class will discuss what is correct and what is not. The teacher will collect the responses as a formative pretest.

2.  The teacher will assign the information worksheet titled The Secretary of State. The students will use the U.S. State Department website listed below to complete the assignment. This could be given as a homework assignment or done at school if a computer lab is available. The web page is fairly brief and could be printed and duplicated if necessary.

3.  When the students have completed The Secretary of State worksheet they will then be assigned the Accomplishments of Some Secretaries of State worksheet. In this assignment the students identify some important historical accomplishments negotiated by various Secretaries of State. They will use the Former Secretaries of State link from the U.S. State Department website. This can be assigned as class work or homework.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended in several ways: students can conduct further research on some of the treaties and negotiations listed in the Accomplishments of Some Secretaries of State worksheet; they can research the current Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, or the former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice and the work in which she they have participated; or they can be asked to find accomplishments of other Secretaries of State not listed in the lesson above.

Sources & Resources:


Dolan, Edward F. and Scariano, Margaret M. Shaping U.S. Foreign Policy: Profiles of Twelve Secretaries of State. Franklin Watts, 1996. 


Secretary of State

Duties of the Secretary of State

Former Secretaries of State


This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.