News / USA

Personality Influences Life After Presidency

Members of the exclusive Presidents Club (from left) George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Members of the exclusive Presidents Club (from left) George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Suzanne Presto
Nearly every U.S. president has found himself in the position of figuring out life after the presidency.

Former presidents have demonstrated there are multiple ways to adapt to life outside of Washington and the Oval Office, and the word "retirement" does not quite apply.  

George W. Bush's quiet service

When former president George W. Bush left the White House in 2009, he largely left the spotlight.

But last year he worked alongside volunteers in Zambia to renovate a clinic that specializes in treating cervical cancer. Like other former presidents, Bush uses his fame to draw attention to issues, but says he prefers not to call attention to his own work.   

"I hope you don't see much of it, because I don't want to be in the news," said Bush as he took a break from painting. "In other words, I believe that quiet service is the best kind of service."

Personality Influences Life After Presidencyi
X
January 16, 2013 6:33 PM
Nearly every U.S. president has found himself in the position of figuring out life after the presidency. Former presidents have demonstrated there are multiple ways to adapt to life outside of Washington and the Oval Office, and the word "retirement" does not quite apply. VOA's Suzanne Presto has more.


Urgent missions

Former presidents have the ability to harness the public's attention and goodwill. President Barack Obama tapped Bush and former president Bill Clinton to lead a fundraising effort in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti.    
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush speak at donor's conference for Haiti reconstruction aid.Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush speak at donor's conference for Haiti reconstruction aid.
x
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush speak at donor's conference for Haiti reconstruction aid.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush speak at donor's conference for Haiti reconstruction aid.

"On behalf of the American people, I want to thank both of you for returning to service and leading this urgent mission," Obama said at the time, standing alongside the two former presidents outside the White House.  

Men who once led the nation can find themselves without a clearly defined role when they leave office.

"If you've been president, you know how limited the role of a former president in any sort of institutional way should be," says presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. "There are presidents who call upon former presidents in all kinds of ways to be of assistance."     

Clinton and former president George H.W. Bush visited Indonesia after the devastating tsunami in 2004, and they raised funds and awareness after Hurricane Katrina ravaged parts of the southern U.S. in 2005.  

Bill Clinton's global challenges

Clinton has remained in the public eye since his presidency, working as a U.N. special envoy to Haiti, pressing North Korea to release American prisoners, and campaigning for his wife, Hillary Clinton, when she ran for president in 2008.

Clinton also founded the Clinton Global Initiative, which he says "was designed to tackle big global challenges in bite-sized pieces."

George H.W. Bush's personal causes

Like his son, former president George H.W. Bush has little interest in pursuing high-profile work, preferring personal causes instead, according to Mark Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

"It's a relatively passive post-presidency," says Updegrove. "Of course, the most significant chapter in his post-presidency was when he became the father of the president of the United States."

Historians say post-presidential life has evolved. Prior to 1958, ex-presidents weren't granted pensions - let alone office space, staff and other benefits that give them a degree of freedom to pursue various interests.    

Modern technology also links presidents to the public.

"As the presidency has become part of the 24/7 news cycle, presidents come into our lives. They come into our homes more than anyone except members of our immediate family," says Smith. "Whatever our partisan loyalties may be, we establish relations with them and their wives and their families."

Ronald Reagan chose a public life

Such is the case with one-time movie star and former president Ronald Reagan, who left office in 1989. He published a letter in 1994 revealing he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.   
Former President Ronald Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Tuesday on July 15, 1997.Former President Ronald Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Tuesday on July 15, 1997.
x
Former President Ronald Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Tuesday on July 15, 1997.
Former President Ronald Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Tuesday on July 15, 1997.

His wife, Nancy, said they considered it an opportunity to raise awareness.

At the time, Nancy Reagan noted they'd been "public people our entire married life." She added, "If we can make a difference through our involvement, then we simply have to get out and do it."

Post-presidencies reflective of their character

Former presidents can devote themselves to chosen causes in a way they couldn't while in office, according Updegrove, the author of various books on the presidency.

"I think in many ways that the post-presidential activities of our former presidents are more reflective of their character than their years in office, which tend to be more insular in nature," says Updegrove. "When you're president, you can't always set the agenda. You have to react to events around you, nationally and internationally, so you might come in with ideas of what you want to do, but your presidency turns into something far different."

Post-presidency for an unelected president

Former president Gerald Ford did not even campaign before his presidency. He was serving in Congress when disgraced president Richard Nixon nominated him, as the Watergate scandal enveloped the sitting president's administration.
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty talk to reporters outside the White House in this August 11, 1999 file photo.Former U.S. President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty talk to reporters outside the White House in this August 11, 1999 file photo.
x
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty talk to reporters outside the White House in this August 11, 1999 file photo.
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty talk to reporters outside the White House in this August 11, 1999 file photo.

Ford, who served as president from 1974 to 1977, is known to have valued the advice of his wife, Betty, respected for her candor and outspokenness.  

In 1978, Betty Ford sought treatment for prescription drug and alcohol use. Four years later, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, which treats patients with substance abuse issues.   

"He was so proud of her. He was very, very much an active foot soldier, for example, in the Betty Ford Center," historian Smith says. "Every year they had an alumni event, and he could be found cooking hot dogs."

Carter's 'adventurous and unpredictable' years

Former president Jimmy Carter's work often focuses on health, human rights, and democracy promotion, including election monitoring.  He says his life's interests did not change when he left office back in 1981.

"I would say, and I think my wife would agree, that the time we spent since the White House has been the most exciting and productive and adventurous and unpredictable and gratifying time," said Carter.  

He cited his work with his foundation, the Carter Center, his teaching position at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and his large family.  

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are well known for their work as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, a group which helps low-income working people to build and buy their own homes.

"All of those things put together and still living in the same little town of 600 people, where my wife and I were born and where we own land since 1833, all those things combined together have given me a very wonderful life since the White House," Carter says.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More