Yesterday, we were treated to a wonderful picture of three of our former Presidents watching golf together. They were at the President’s cup in New Jersey, and seemed to be enjoying the company of each other. Usually when ex Presidents get together it is for a funeral, disaster relief, or something else of a serious nature. Yesterday’s picture is wonderful because it captured them in a moment where they just looked a trio of old friends immersed in a good time. The picture spurred me to want tot take a look at the past and present of the most exclusive club in the world: The Ex Presidents.
Photo Credit: NationalMemo
For only the third time in history, we have five living former Presidents, and for the most part, they all get along very well. President Carter somewhat of an exception, as he is a touch on the outside of that relationship. The others have been very quiet about criticizing each other after campaigns were over, whereas Carter has spoken out on many occasions in opposition to those who followed him. If you look at pictures of the group when they get together, Carter always seems to be a little separate from the rest. In his defense, Carter has had more time to get on the nerves of those who came after him, as he has now been and ex-President for 36 years. This is a record by five years. Also, to be fair to President Carter, his ex Presidency has been immensely filled with humanitarian and charity work around the globe. The above picture was taken in 2015 as they got together to dedicate the Presidential library for George W. Bush in Fort Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, that may be the last time you see five living ex Presidents in the same place for quite some time. The picture below is in the oval office on the day that Barack Obama became President in 2009.
Photo Credit: The New York Times
In the past, Presidents have maintained positive relationships with their predecessors, often reaching out to them for advice on particular issues or simply to vent to someone who could empathize with what they were going through. Former Presidents have also been sent on specific missions by the serving President, often with great success. In 1994, President Carter was sent to North Korea to talk about their nuclear program by President Clinton. A decade later Clinton went to North Korea to secure the release of two Americans being held captive there. Ex Presidents can be powerful diplomatic weapons, and they are generally available and wanting to get back in the action. My favorite tale of a former President is that of John Quincy Adams. He lost his bid to be re-elected to the presidency, but was so anti-slavery he went back to Washington as a congressman from Massachusetts to lead the fight for abolition for 17 years.
These days, America and the world benefit from the multiple good deeds done by our former Presidents. We are fortunate, as there have been six separate occasions when there have been no living presidents. It will be interesting to see what former President Obama does with his remaining years. He is only 56 years old, and became the third youngest ex President ever earlier this year. There is speculation that he may one day serve on the Supreme Court, as William Howard Taft did after he left the Presidency. He’ll probably have to wait a while though. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Carter were both born in 1924, Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton were born only a month apart in 1946.
Photo Credit: People Magazine
Our current club has done its best work in the area of disaster relief. Presidents H.W. Bush and Clinton became great friends, and raised over 100 million dollars with their relief efforts for the Tsunami of 2005, Hurricane Katrina, and other causes. In fact, they became such great friends that George W. and Jeb Bush often remark that Bush Sr.’s favorite son is actually Bill Clinton. The younger Bush and Clinton have also become great friends, they can be seen below speaking at their Presidential Scholars Program.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
We are seeing the power of the ex Presidents on full display right now as they have bound together to help hurricane victims of Harvey and Irma, and have recently extended their efforts to hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico. This is a great story beyond the Presidents themselves. Once the idea was hatched, there was only 36 hours to get the first commercial done in order to take advantage of the free air time being donated by the N.F.L. Crews had to be dispatched to five different locations to film the President, and all of the crews were people who volunteered immediately to join the cause without pay.
Being a productive member of the former presidents club does a lot of good things for others, but also the ex Presidents themselves. George W. Bush is a perfect example of this. When he left office, Bush had an approval rating of under 32 percent. Now when asked if they have a favorable opinion of the former President, 59 percent of Americans say yes. Bush left office, kept pretty much out of site, and didn’t criticize the man who followed him. It will also be interesting to see how President Obama does at staying quiet, as he has often been a target of President Trump’s. This is quite unique, as the last President to spend much time criticizing his predecessor was Franklin D. Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover. Interestingly, after Roosevelt died, President Truman wanted to help Hoover rebuild his name. Truman sent Hoover to Europe after World War Two ended to help with food delivery and rebuilding.
We all often feel like, “They don’t know what I’m going through, or what is like to be me.” Probably nobody feels that more than the leader of the free world. There club is unique, and very exclusive. It has to feel good to spend time with the very few others in the world that can empathize with what you have gone through. For their own sake it is a good thing for the ex Presidents to remain friends. It is also a good thing for the rest of us to see that people who were once rivals can set aside past differences to enjoy each others company and work for a better world.
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