Photo by Grace Yarrow

The editorial board debates the effectiveness and relevance of presidential qualifications for 2020 candidates.

Presidential Qualifications

March 4, 2019

The U.S. Constitution establishes three enumerated qualifications for a presidential candidate: one must be a natural-born citizen, must be a resident of the United States for 14 years, and be at least 35 years old. The Gaucho Gazette editorial board considers the significance of these qualifications, especially in the political climate that will greatly influence the 2020 presidential election.

These unsigned editorials are written by the members of the editorial board: Alice Antony, Nellely Azpeitia, Emet Beckman, Kayla Briceño, Celeste Chavez, Lauren Doran, Sue Jacob, Taya Llapitan, Cash Martinez, Alejandro Paredes, Sydney Pearce, Aalyna Silva, Kevin Sittner, Natasha Thomas, Kaitlyn Wong, and Grace Yarrow. However, the ideas presented do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gaucho Gazette staff as a whole. 


Established in Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution are three mandatory qualifications for holding the presidency. The first qualification a person must meet in order to serve as president is that they must be a natural-born citizen of the United States.

Being born in the United States does not automatically imply that the individual presents immense devotion and loyalty towards the country. If someone chose to come to America in hopes of expanding their liberties and opportunities and they so wish to have their voice heard on a political platform, then they should have that right so long as they present a profusion of political knowledge. Essentially being born in the United States does not indicate one’s understanding of the country or their political experience. Many natural-born U.S. citizens choose not to educate themselves on politics and remain oblivious to the domestic and foreign affairs of the United States of America. A person’s origins do not determine the degree of devotion one has towards the United States — that is up to the individual. Furthermore, if the individual was born in another country and brought to the U.S. in their early childhood, then all that child will ever know is the soil of America and not their birthplace, thus if they wish to see political reformation when they grow older, they should be able to promote that change in a presidential campaign.

In the end, the important characteristics of a president are their actions, connection to the people and overall the change they bring upon the country, good or bad, not their birthplace or young age.

The second qualification is that the presidential candidate must at least be thirty-five years of age. The Founding Fathers established this age limit in the Constitution thinking that age brings maturity and wisdom. However, according to Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development the final stage ends in adulthood, which is typically perceived at 25 years old and is the age where humans develop moral autonomous decision making based on principles of right and justice. If there is a focus on qualifications, it should be on their skills and their agenda for the country. A young president, even 30 years of age, does not mean an under-qualified one. Through their campaign, speeches, and interviews the public can decide if the candidate is ready for the presidency since the government is run on a democracy.

This age requirement also forms the idea that Presidents have to be older to fulfill the position. President Donald Trump is 72 years old, Ronald Reagan was sworn in when he was 73, and the average age of all 40 presidents that have been in office is just over 50 years old. That is twenty years over the age requirement for the presidency. Everything they do is immensely impactful for the future: the future of the youth that will later have to fix problems created by older Presidents.

Finally, the Constitution states that a presidential candidate must be a resident of the U.S. for 14 years. This is incredibly random — being a resident does not at all mean that a candidate is politically active. If a U.S. Ambassador decides to run for the White House, they must wait 14 years after their ambassadorship ends. Perhaps a candidate has been studying international relations. Would it not be more valuable to have a president who has international experience and is able to provide a unique perspective to the nation?

In the end, the important characteristics of a president are their actions, connection to the people and overall the change they bring upon the country, good or bad, not their birthplace or young age. The U.S. must consider the implications of these qualifications and realize that they do not take into account qualities that truly define a successful president and leader.

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Despite the efforts of petitioners, lobbyists, and other external influences that frequently act upon the federal government, three paramount qualifications stand for individuals who seek to attain presidential office in the United States of America. In order to become president, seemingly innocuous requirements regarding age and citizenship must be met. Specifically, the Constitution necessitates to this day; one must be at least 35 years old, natural-born citizen, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.

Although these provisions may appear to limit the American dream by preventing immigrants and young people, frequent disagreements regarding the elasticity of such requirements tend to favor a looser interpretation of the document, allowing a greater number of people to qualify for president than one may initially perceive. While the question of whether the mandatory 14 years of residency must be consecutive and the 14 years must occur immediately before running for office is open, being a “natural-born citizen” doesn’t necessitate a candidate in the United States. Rather, the leniency granted to include children to American-born citizens who are born outside of the United States, such as on vacation or on military bases, is an indication of the relevance and thought with which the framers established such requirements.

Perhaps the most well-recognized clause of Article II, Section V of the Constitution, age requirement, stands as a valid safeguard to the presidential powers, both enumerated and implied, that could easily be abused. Because executive orders carry full force of law; because declaring a state of emergency doesn’t require initial approval; because the president is granted total control over weapons of mass destruction, holding office requires use of calculated planning and precise thought so that one can enact policy and protect national security while preventing overreach.

Even though coming of age doesn’t guarantee sound judgement, discipline, maturity, imposing minimum age standards to qualify for presidency guarantees that candidates haven’t only undergone full mental and physiological growth, but had have ample opportunities to gain vital experiences in their desired profession, whether that is; law, business, or politics. The significance of prolonged residency within the nation seeks to lead is two-fold. One cannot truly serve as a moral leader and model citizen, nor represent the entirety of their constituents without first recognizing state of affairs for the majority of the nation, or even recognizing the circumstances of the nation’s most marginalized groups before a candidate acquiring status, wealth, or power. Those who know toil will not fall victim to the elitist sentiments that plagued the government preceding America’s declaration of independence from foreign rule. Even for those raised in comfort during residency, those 14 years serve as an essential window for recognizing the issues that matter the most and for establishing a strong physical connection to the land.

Although citizenship requirements appear to discriminate against immigrants, even those who have gained citizenship legally, maintained residency, and completed integration, the framers’ initial intent was to protect control of executive branch from foreign tyrants whose motives conflict with the best interests of security and integrity of the nation. Given the potential for unjust foreign influence, presidential elections could be used to promote a tyrant, so preventing a foreign-born citizen from running, protects the security of the republic to overthrow the current system of governance. Limiting eligibility requirements include: natural-born citizens is merely an unfortunate consequence of the preservation of United States land, ideals, and inhabitants.

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