1. Explain the general issue to students and ask them what they think would happen if the President, today, were seriously ill. Who would take over?
2. Using the websites listed below, divide students into several groups to research the following:
- President Wilson's illness
- Edith Wilson's actions at the time
- The illness of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan during their presidencies
3. Engage students in a discussion of what has been the case until now, and what they think needs to be done in the future, if anything, paying particular attention to the following questions:
- Should the 25th Amendment be strengthened in any way?
- Should the President's wife, as the person closest to him, act as his "voice" while he is ill or injured?
- Under the circumstances, did Edith Wilson do the right thing? Why or why not?
To extend this lesson, and using the First Ladies Curriculum Timeline to see what was going on in the world, the class might research further on the medical histories of our Presidents, charting their serious illnesses and discussing how history might have changed because of them.
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University