Ex-presidents: Life after leaving the most powerful job in the world

What is the experience of a U.S. president after he leaves the White House and the weight of the country’s problems are lifted off his shoulders?

When George Washington completed his tenure as the nation’s first president, historians say he rode his horse to his Virginia plantation, eager to return to the duties of running his farm and later building one of the country’s largest distilleries.

Serving as commander in chief has its perks, but it’s not the only job that defined the lives of many former presidents. William Howard Taft would become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice after leaving office. John Quincy Adams traded his days as president to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter took up charitable causes, such as his work with Habitat for Humanity and international voting rights, and continued teaching Sunday school at his small Baptist church in Plains, Georgia.

There’s also big money to be made by former presidents when they leave the job. Bill Clinton focused his attention on his family’s Clinton Foundation after his two terms as president, with estimates of more than $2 billion raised to pursue global causes and employs as many as 2,000 people. His book, “My Life,” earned him an estimated $15 million. Barack and Michelle Obama did even better, landing a combined $60 million in book deals after serving eight years in office.

Other presidents returned to more peaceful lives. Harry Truman reportedly returned to his Missouri home by train after leaving the White House, carried his own luggage home and the next day purchased a new Chrysler that he could drive himself. George W. Bush returned to his beloved Texas, where he concentrated on his portrait paintings and nurtured a strong friendship with his family’s former political adversary, Bill Clinton.

In one of the most tumultuous departures from the White House in recent history, Richard Nixon returned to California after resigning in the wake of the Watergate scandal. He suffered medical issues and crippling legal bills stemming from the ongoing investigations. In the end, he sold his memoirs for more than $2 million and received $600,000 for a series of television interviews with host David Frost, but lived mostly a private life after his days as president.

Like Donald Trump who returned to his home in Florida after losing to President Joe Biden, most presidents leave Washington, D.C. to return to more familiar surroundings. Ronald Reagan spent his post-presidential years in California. Dwight Eisenhower returned to his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Learn more about how U.S. presidents have spent their post-presidential lives by exploring the fascinating articles available at NewspaperArchive.com.

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