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U.S. News
22: Presidential term limits

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


George Washington could have been elected to a third term, but declined it, suggesting two terms of four years were enough for any president. In 1797, he quietly returned to Mount Vernon. His two-term example became an unwritten rule in the realm of presidential politics until 1940. That was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who steered the nation through the Great Depression of the 1930s, decided he wanted to run again. Newspapers railed against the breach of tradition. His Republican opponent, Wendell Willkie forced the incumbent to run a hard campaign, which Roosevelt won. He then went after, and received, a fourth term in office, explaining that he could not leave the helm at a time he was guiding a nation through the Second World War.

Just months into his fourth term, Roosevelt died and, with him, the idea of unlimited terms for presidents. An amendment, promoted heavily by the Republican party and by others nervous at the idea of a permanent presidency, was passed in 1947. It was ratified by the states four years later. The amendment limits a president to two four-year terms. Today, in the city over which Roosevelt presided for 13 years, youngsters such as Nordina Blackburn, 6, of Norcross, Ga., can visit the monument to the first -- and last -- president to serve more than two terms.

Amendment XXII:

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

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