Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

John Quincy Adams and the trait that broke a presidency

February 14, 2016 at 5:27 PM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

John Quincy Adams was dogged in his ideals—a trait that by most accounts made him a great secretary of state and a powerful congressman, but that ultimately tanked his presidency.

For this week's episode of the Presidential podcast, we explore the unique and all-important leadership skill of being able to work with Congress, and how that was as challenging and as necessary for American presidents 200 years ago as it is today. The episode features Charles Edel, author of Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic; Fred Kaplan, author of John Quincy Adams: American Visionary; and Washington Post political reporter Katie Zezima.

[Test your presidential knowledge with our quiz and vote on your favorite commander-in-chief in our bracket]

The Presidential podcast, consisting of 44 episodes leading up to election day in November, examines the leadership and legacy of each of the American presidents. In previous episodes, we explored topics like the mythology of George Washington and  why John Adams doesn't have a monument. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president—effective or ineffective, esteemed or forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

Want to learn more about John Quincy Adams? Listen to the sixth episode of Presidential here:

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:


Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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