From domestic terrorism to financial devastation to hostages abroad—presidents are often judged by how they handle crisis. It is sometimes those moments that define their presidencies and legacies. Explore the topic in this series of short videos.
The Oklahoma City Bombing
After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Clinton's ability to reach Americans on a personal level did much to help the nation's grief. "It’s kind of a throwaway line now, I feel your pain, but he literally could," says Robert McNeely. "I mean he could take people and just hug them and connect to them in a way and really listen to them."
Protests against the Vietnam War turned personal, with students blaming LBJ for the way the war was going. "He was frustrated because he couldn't end it and because he thought he couldn't win it," says John Connally.
Mounting pressure to rescue hostages in Iran led Jimmy Carter to order a rescue operation. "We can no longer depend on diplomacy," said Carter in April. But when the "Desert One" operation failed, Carter took full responsibility.
Franklin Roosevelt used the power of the federal government to relieve the suffering caused by the Great Depression.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Over the course of 13 days in October 1962, Kennedy avoided war with the Soviet Union through a willingness to proceed with caution -- and a gamble that Premier Nikita Khrushchev was just as horrified at the prospect of nuclear obliteration as he was. The negotiation would come to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis and would be one of Kennedy's most lasting legacies.
In the spring of 1972, Nixon took a risk and responded to North Vietnamese aggression by bombing Hanoi, jeopardizing an upcoming arms control summit in Moscow.
On March 30, 1981, 70 days into his presidency, President Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.