Life After Power : Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House
By Jared Cohen
Former presidents have an unusual place in American life. King George III believed that George Washington’s departure after two terms made him “the greatest character of the age.” But Alexander Hamilton worried former presidents might “[wander] among the people like ghosts.” They were both right.
Life After Power tells the stories of seven former presidents, from the Founding to today. Each changed history. Each offered lessons about how to decide what to do in the next chapter of life.
Thomas Jefferson was the first former president to accomplish great things after the White House, shaping public debates and founding the University of Virginia, an accomplishment he included on his tombstone, unlike his presidency. John Quincy Adams served in Congress and became a leading abolitionist, passing the torch to Abraham Lincoln. Grover Cleveland was the only president in American history to serve a nonconsecutive term. William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Herbert Hoover shaped the modern conservative movement, led relief efforts after World War II, reorganized the executive branch, and reconciled John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter had the longest post-presidency in American history, advancing humanitarian causes, human rights, and peace. George W. Bush made a clean break from politics, bringing back George Washington’s precedent, and reminding the public that the institution of the presidency is bigger than any person.
Jared Cohen explores the untold stories in the final chapters of these presidents’ lives, offering a gripping and illuminating account of how they went from President of the United States one day, to ordinary citizens the next. He tells how they handled very human problems of ego, finances, and questions about their legacy and mortality. He shows how these men made history after they left the White House.