Accessibility links

Breaking News

Election Capsule: Can Anyone be President? Almost


An old American saying holds that anyone can be president, and in legal terms, this is largely true.

The U.S. Constitution says the president must be a native-born citizen who has lived in the country for at least 14 years and has reached the age of 35.

Anyone who meets those requirements, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation is eligible to hold the United States' highest public office.

In practice, Americans have elected presidents who fit into a more narrow mold. All 43 U.S. presidents have been white men of European descent.

Every president has been a Christian, and only one was not from a Protestant denomination, President John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic.

These facts have not stopped presidential hopefuls from trying for a breakthrough. The last 20 years have seen several female, African-American, and Jewish candidates mount credible campaigns for president and vice president, though none has won.

Some Americans have suggested opening the presidency to foreign-born citizens. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow an immigrant to run for president after being a U.S. citizen for 20 years.

If it passes, the old saying may have to be expanded to say that anyone in the world can be president. Of course, the final judgment will rest with American voters, who elect a new president every four years.