During the first twelve years of our education, we increasingly absorb various tidbits about our government and its history—like that the Constitution was ratified on September 17, 1787 or that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president. But how much do children really learn about the inner workings of the United States government? How many adults even fully comprehend that system? While it is true that the American government is complex, it still impacts our daily lives. Therefore, understanding these complexities can profoundly change the way that we, as American citizens, shape the future of our country. As we get older and begin to take on more responsibilities, interest in government seems to fall by the wayside, but there is empowerment in being informed.
Our Constitution states three requirements for presidential candidates: be a natural born citizen, be 35 years of age or older, and have lived in the U.S. for 14 years or more. Most of us probably don’t grow up believing that one day we could potentially become the next president of the United States—it may seem too big, too impossible a dream—but why? As young people, we are the future of this nation, so why not believe that someday we could make a change for the better?
Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Adam Rex, The Next President:The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents is a phenomenal new picture book that can help spark an interest in our government at a young age. It encourages children from all over the country to see the presidency as a possibility for themselves one day— regardless of what their interests are now. Messner urges young minds to recognize that, although our earliest presidents were from similar backgrounds, America is always changing. As such, we must all look to the future, whether we are old enough to vote or not quite there yet. As Messner points out, while one president held office, there were at least nine or ten future presidents alive at the same time, which means that at least ten future presidents are walking around as we speak! They are out there, right now, growing and learning about our nation. (And for some, perhaps, this year was their first time voting in a presidential election.)
However, The Next President not only gives us a glimpse into the early lives of our presidents, and what they might’ve looked like, but Adam Rex’s illustrations also portray the growing diversity of our country, showing young readers that no matter their race, gender, or what passions they pursue, they could one day lead this country. A powerful message that was only further proven by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ historic win.
Overall, Messner’s tactful approach to our nation’s history, exploration of who our presidents were before leading the country, and profound hope for the future, bring about a curiosity to learn more about the U.S. government and its leaders. While one is never too young to become informed about how or by whom our country is run, it is also important to highlight the power in voting and making our voices heard, because the younger generations will make all the difference in the future of this nation.
And who knows, maybe one of them will be the next president.
PRR Writers, Courtney Halsey and Karyme Cuadras