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Page of President Johnson's daily diary from the day of the Civil Rights Bill signing.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Austin, Texas

Some of the most fascinating documents of the presidency are the diaries that reveal what the president does all day and all week. Assembled from information found in Secret Service logs, the president's schedule, notes from presidential staff members who track where he is, the President's Diarist--an employee of the National Archives, not the White House--creates the record of his days in office in terms of where he goes, who he sees, sometimes the subject under discussion of a meeting, when and for how long he meets people and/or is in a particular location. The President's Daily Diary has been replicated across presidential terms so that you can compare information from one president to another. Do they have the same meetings? Do they talk to people in the same government positions, including White House staff members? These are questions one can answer by looking across administrations.

What Does a President Do All Week?

The diaries can provide answers to key questions: who, what, where, when, how. Who: refers to who a president meets with and talks to. In addition, keep a look out for who he doesn't see as well. What: what are the activities he regularly is involved in, such as trips across years to the annual G-8 conference. Where: where does the president go outside of the White House and inside as well. How often does he get out on the White House compound? When: what are the rhythms of a day and a week in terms of the meetings he regularly has and the frequency of having entries on the schedule that are one-time events for him. How: how does he get up to speed on issues. This you can get from a look at the meetings he has on particular policy areas, such as national security and foreign policy. One of the entries you will see for most presidents is the President's Daily Brief. That is the intelligence report he gets at the start of the day. After answering these questions, I would like for you to summarize what you have learned about the presidency and about individual presidents. For example, you may find that the president doesn't get out of the White House compound very often. Or that he does. It will depend on the president and the point in his presidency he is in, such as running for reelection he is out a great deal.

Links to Diaries: