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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid