We all have our favourite and least favourite US presidents. But do we know why? And how do we judge?

Given the close relationship between Australia and the US, Australians have a special interest in White House incumbents. The election of Barack Obama marks a new era in the history of the American presidency, and has sparked renewed world-wide interest in the role and function of the world’s most powerful office. Obama’s proposed visit to Australia is a highly anticipated event.

This day-long conference presented by Dr Ian J. Bickerton of the University of New South Wales, Dr Jeremy Pressman of the US Studies Centre and The Honourable Bob Carr explored the lives and careers of a number of those who occupied the White House in an attempt to systematically assess who were the greatest and who were less great.

The panel asked what were the presidents' qualifications for the job and what personal qualities did they possess before becoming president. Did they live up to their promise? The panel considered the challenges selected presidents faced, foreign and domestic, and analyze how well, or badly, they addressed them.