Miller Center

About Presidential Classroom

The mission of Presidential Classroom is to educate and motivate students to aspire to public service and leadership by providing the highest quality, non-partisan civic education programs. Using the power of the web to reach students all over the world, Presidential Classroom aims to equip its users with a deep understanding of the government of the United States, the political workings of our system, and the historical background that helps inform the events of today.

History of Presidential Classroom

In 1968, with the rise of a strong youth voice in American politics, Presidential Classroom was chartered in Washington, D.C. Presidential Classroom followed in the tradition of U.S. Presidents who were interested in education (some were educators themselves), including Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson. President Kennedy, who challenged the young to public service, sponsored two pilot programs during his administration - “Widening Horizons” and the “White House Seminars.” During the Johnson Administration, Vice President Hubert Humphrey led the “Washington Briefings.” The White House staff began to develop a more formal program to provide an in-depth study of American government for a national student body. However, the staff decided that the program’s longevity and non-partisan status would require an independent organization be formed. The campaigns of both Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey were contacted to ensure their endorsement of the concept, and the blueprint for the program was transferred from the White House to a board of directors, comprised of prominent educators and citizens, to become Presidential Classroom.

Presidential Classroom developed new programs to address issues concerning science and technology, business, national security, law and justice, news media and international relations. These programs, along with the flagship Presidential Classroom Scholars Program, attracted thousands of outstanding high school students to Washington annually. For more than four decades, Presidential Classroom introduced more than 120,000 young men and women to the interaction among government, business, politics, advocacy organizations, and the citizenry that shapes public policy and to the opinion leaders who make it.

In 2011, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia became the new home of Presidential Classroom and moved the program from a physical experience to a virtual one, focusing on reaching a greater number of students and teachers. By providing online exhibits with supporting materials, Presidential Classroom gives students and teachers access to specific moments in U.S. history. The new website also allows students to learn from government and military officials, journalists, and political operatives the importance of public service, the role citizens play in a democracy, and how history informs the lessons of today.