Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Delaney from Topeka. Delaney Wonders, “How do you become a Vice President?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Delaney!
Many of our Wonder Friends have learned a lot about the U.S. president. You may know how the office is elected. You might have read how the job is different from being a Prime Minister. Maybe you’ve even learned about the Cabinet. Today, we’re learning about another person very close to the president. Who? The vice president, of course!
What do vice presidents (VPs) do? The office was created to have someone ready to take over if the president couldn’t carry out their duties. And many would say that’s still the VP’s main job today! They need to be ready to take on the job of president if needed.
Does the vice president just sit around waiting for their turn to lead the nation? No, of course not! They have two other stated functions in the Constitution. The first is to chair the U.S. Senate. In this role, the VP casts the tie-breaking vote if the Senate is evenly split. The second duty is to receive the count of electoral ballots during a presidential election and announce the winner.
Of course, the VP often takes on many more tasks. They work closely with the president. They hire staff members and keep an office in the White House. Since 1974, the VP has lived in the U.S. Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington, DC.
How is the vice president chosen? Before 1804, they were elected by winning the second most votes in the race for president. Today, the VP is the president’s running mate. They take part in the same campaign and are voted into office together.
Of course, some vice presidents go on to become president. So far, this has happened 14 times. Four of these were due to the death of a president from natural causes. Another four were cases of presidential assassination. One was because the president resigned. The others were elected to the office.
Many vice presidents are remembered for things they did. For example, John Adams was the country’s first VP. Three have won the Nobel Peace Prize—Charles Dawes, Theodore Roosevelt, and Al Gore. In January 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman to hold the office. She is also the first Black person and first person of South Asian heritage to serve as VP.
Not every VP is remembered kindly, however. Former Vice President John Breckenridge led troops against Washington, DC, during the Civil War. Another, Aaron Burr, killed Alexander Hamilton.
The vice president plays an important role in the U.S. government. Of course, all three branches work together to make decisions and pass laws. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches all do their part to govern the nation.
Do you enjoy politics? Do you like doing things that help other people? Maybe you dream of sitting in the office of the VP one day! It’s an important job that can make a big difference in the lives of millions.
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2