Barack Obama left his position as the most powerful man in the world over nine months ago and he told the press that he planned to take a “really nice vacation.” He made good on that promise and traveled with the former First Lady to California, the British Virgin Islands, and then to his home state of Hawaii. During their Hawaiian getaway, the Obamas announced that the rights to their individual books had been bought jointly by Penguin Random House publishing for $65 million. The books will be memoirs describing both facets of the Executive office.
After Hawaii, the Obamas traveled to French Polynesia, Tuscany, and then the UK. While in Europe, Obama attended meetings with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and English Prime Minister David Cameron to speak with them about his Foundation’s work and about the world’s youth. The Foundation recently recruited young people to become the first class of fellows. The twenty people fortunate enough to be accepted will have two years of non-residential training, leadership development, and access to resources to help them improve their communities.
Travel, business, and community work are all very typical actions of former presidents. So it comes as no surprise that Mr. Obama has also been paid for at least nine speeches since leaving office. He was paid an average of $400,000 per speech; in a show of philanthropy, Mr. Obama donated two million dollars of that money to a jobs training program for people with low income in Chicago. Along with his charitable acts, Obama has continued another common legacy of the president. He plans to raise $800 million to build the Obama library and museum on the Southside of Chicago. As the New Yorker put it, “The minute you stop being pharaoh, you have to start building a pyramid.” This holds true for every former president since Woodrow Wilson; each one of them has had a park, library, or some other type of community area dedicated to them after leaving office.
Where Mr. Obama differs from past presidents is in his relationship with his successor. Obama and Trump have not continued the tradition of friendship after office. President Trump stated in an interview that the lack of friendliness is unfortunate, but unsurprising as he has not been “exactly great to him either”. Mr. Obama continued to defy the traditional roles of the presidential retirement when he chose to criticize the actions of Donald Trump. It was only 10 days after the inauguration that he tweeted, “Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to se
e when American values are at stake”. This tweet was in response to the travel ban created in early January by the Trump administration. The former president also expressed his discontent publicly after Trump announced the end of US involvement in the Paris Peace accord.
Mr. and Mrs. Obama will undoubtedly continue to live a public life through retirement, regardless of whether it is politically driven or not.
Graphic: Maraea Garcia