America’s presidents are the best of the best. Only the most high-achieving and hard-working among us have ever come within striking distance of the highest office in the land – the position that during the 20th century became known as Leader of the Free World and most powerful person on earth.

This is even more true in modern times, when the U.S. presidential campaign has evolved into the longest, most-grueling job interview ever imagined. Month after month, for more than a year, candidates criss-cross the country making their pitch to voters and facing the hard elbows of their political opponents from both sides of the aisle until the November election – only to undertake the ultimate, solemn responsibility of being commander in chief a few short weeks later.

But what does history tell us about who the hardest-working U.S. presidents were? Here are five whose dogged work ethics shaped America during our most critical periods in history.

5. Dwight Eisenhower

A legendary general who led the Allied Forces to victory in Europe during World War II, Dwight Eisenhower always worked hard, but early in his career, he felt it sometimes worked against him – his superiors were hesitant to send him into the field because his organizational skills were so strong.

But during World War II, Eisenhower worked 14-hour days, fueled by endless cups of coffee and 4 packs of cigarettes a day – which took its toll. Ike said he “realized how inexorably and inescapably strain and tension wear away at the leader’s endurance, his judgment and his own confidence. The pressure becomes more acute because of the duty of a staff to present to the commander the worst side of an eventuality.” Ike knew he had to “preserve optimism in himself and in his command. Without confidence, enthusiasm, and optimism in the command, victory would scarcely be obtainable.” Ike took this attitude to the office of the presidency, leading America in the post-WWII decade as it became the unquestionable world power it is today.

4. Franklin Roosevelt

Despite suffering from an illness that left him paralyzed and unable to walk, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became one of America’s most consequential presidents. He shepherded America through the Great Depression, instituted the New Deal, and was commander in chief during the defining conflict of the 20th century, World War II.

FDR faced the incredible physical struggle of being unable to walk, but maintained a vigorous energy that any able-bodied person would envy. 21st century presidents have remarked how difficult it is to maintain the pace of a presidential campaign, only to face the day-to-day reality of being president, a 24/7 grind that turns men in the prime of their lives gray at the end of eight years – or even four. Yet FDR served a remarkable 12 years in office, winning a record four presidential elections. Only a man of remarkable work ethic and stamina could maintain this pace – and do so while the literal fate of the world depended on his work.

3. Abraham Lincoln

The man who saved the Union during the Civil War relied on a strong work ethic to achieve his accomplishments. Despite battling depression after the death of his sons, along with insomnia, Lincoln honorably fought his inner demons and the demons he found in the institution of slavery inside his nation’s borders.

Winning the struggle for the soul of America depended on his inspired leadership, but could not have been accomplished without the work ethic he learned early in life. Late nights and early mornings in the White House were preceded by back-breaking work in his youth, first by his father’s side and then for his own employment by local neighbors and farmers. Lincoln made his views on the value hard work well-known, most famously in a letter he wrote referring two eager sons of a needy mother for service in the Army: “The lady — bearer of this — says she has two sons who want to work. Set them at it, if possible. Wanting to work is so rare a merit, that it should be encouraged.” It’s clear that Lincoln understood the value of work – and how most people do not.

2. Teddy Roosevelt

Like his distant cousin and fellow president Franklin, Teddy suffered from health issues at an early age. Fighting off debilitating asthma with a diet of strenuous physical exercise, Teddy became the quintessential American cowboy, a masculine ideal of strength and vitality that remains today. But his physical activity was only one aspect of his work ethic. Beginning during his time as a student at Harvard, Roosevelt meticulously scheduled his life, making time for studying along with all of his many extracurricular activities through the use of “deep work,” or focusing on only one thing with your full effort. Through this strategy, Roosevelt managed to finish his studies in only a few hours a day, leaving additional time to spend on his budding affinity for the outdoors. Here’s what he had to say about the importance of work ethic:

I never won anything without hard labor and exercise of my best judgement and careful planning and working long in advance. Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy, I was a young man at first both nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit.

Without his hard work, Roosevelt would have been unable to achieve his lasting presidential legacy of breaking up industrial monopolies, improving food safety standards, protecting our natural environment, and so much more.

1. George Washington

America’s first president was also our hardest-working, spending years putting his life on the line as the leader of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, then serving as our first president and selflessly abdicating his power when his countrymen urged him to remain.

He commanded American troops fearlessly, hardened by the ultimate objective of freedom from tyranny. But his strong work ethic was borne from a difficult childhood. Washington grew up poor, and his father died young, leaving him to care for his mother and siblings and unable to receive the sophisticated education he yearned for. Nevertheless, he taught himself to write, laying the groundwork for a successful life. Later, he realized the value of learning from men who had the education he did not – American icons including Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison.

As a military commander, Washington understood hard work and discipline were the only ways to prevail in battle: “Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.”

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