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Lesson Plans

"We Polked you in '44, we shall Pierce you in '52!" Presidential Campaign Slogans

June 9, 2016

Full Lesson


Slogans are a critical aspect of a political campaign: In just a few words, they must summarize the candidate’s brand and win over voters. Most importantly, they must be memorable enough to stand out among the barrage of advertisements during the campaign season. How well do you know presidential campaign slogans from history?


Social studies, history, government

Estimated Time

1-2 50 minute classes

Grade Level



As a warm-up, click here for a PBS NewsHour media gallery on presidential campaigns through history. What techniques have candidates used for campaigning in the past? Are those techniques still useful or popular today? Explain.

  1. With a small group of classmates, write down as many presidential campaign slogans as you can remember. What characteristics of these slogans make them more memorable than others? How does a memorable campaign slogan influence an election? Discuss.
  2. Click here for a detailed list of historical presidential campaign slogans. Find at least three slogans that you have never heard. What characteristics of these slogans made them less memorable? Do you tend to remember the slogans of winners or losers? Why? Discuss.
  3. Many campaign slogans allude to important historical events such as the Civil War and Great Depression. Find at least two examples of allusions that allude to historical events. How and why does the allusion impact the effectiveness of the slogan? Discuss.
    1. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Happy days are here again” encourages voters because it alludes to Roosevelt’s ability to rehabilitate the economy following the Great Depression.
  4. Click here to play a fun Scatter game on Quizlet. Match the slogan with the presidential candidate and race your peers for speed and accuracy. Play it more than once to get different quotes. No registration information is necessary.

Extension Activities:

With a small group of classmates, create a list of campaign slogans used by the three remaining presidential campaigns in the 2016 race. Rank the slogans in order of effectiveness and memorability. How and why do unofficial slogans such as #FeelTheBern affect a candidate’s success? Discuss.

Click here for a PBS NewsHour “Brief but Spectacular” video story about Fred Davis, a leading political consultant. How does Davis’s take on what makes a political advertisement stick compare to the characteristics of memorable slogans that you listed previously? Discuss.

Amanda Wilcox is a graduating senior at T.C. Williams High School. She will be attending Wake Forest University in the fall.

Media literacy education

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