Where is Obama? What Presidents Do After Their Terms


Eliana Saidel

Slider image courtesy of Wikipedia.

As the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches and the Obama era fades further into the past, Americans nationwide find themselves asking: But where did he go? Our presidents live in the spotlight during their time in the White House, but what happens when they leave? What does a president do once they are no longer the leader of the free world?

Legally, once a president’s term is completed, what they do with their future is their own decision. The Former Presidents Act, passed by Congress in 1958, guarantees annual pension, Secret Service protection, office staff, and other lifetime benefits so long as they were not removed from office or held a different federal position after their term. All five living past presidents are eligible to receive the aid promised by this law.

Historically, however,  ex-presidents’ lives after office have been much more varied. For example, George Washington opened a whiskey distillery, while Thomas Jefferson and James Madison went back to their plantations. John Adams served several terms as a congressman, and Teddy Roosevelt explored the Brazilian jungle and almost died of malaria. William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for 9 years. Clearly, there’s no official rule as to what a president does with their newfound spare time.

There are some constants though — past presidents often write books, lecture, campaign, teach, engage in philanthropy or humanitarian efforts, stay involved in foreign affairs, take time to reconnect with family, or re-engage in various hobbies. Former Vice President Joe Biden holds positions at the University of Delaware as well as the University of Pennsylvania, and he is currently writing a book about his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Each president since Herbert Hoover has a presidential library built in their home state, run by the National Archives and Records Administration. President Obama’s library is the 14th in the system, though his is the first to be entirely digital. The Obama Foundation is currently constructing the Obama Presidential Center in South Side, Chicago, which will be privately operated.

The Obama Foundation was established in January 2014 to “carry on the great, unfinished project of renewal and global progress.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So what is Obama up to? He and former First Lady Michelle Obama did not move out of DC like many of their predecessors — they remained so as not to disrupt their younger daughter’s high school education, and they moved their older daughter to Harvard University this past fall. The couple threw their annual holiday party from their home in Kalorama, DC. Obama has been featured on several talk shows and has spoken at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Beau Biden Foundation, and more. He even returned to Chicago when he was called for jury duty, though he was not actually selected to the jury.

The Obamas will be staying in Washington, DC for the time being. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In terms of political activity, Obama helped Democratic Party campaigns across the country and has denounced several of Trump’s policy decisions since his inauguration. Exactly how involved he will become in our country’s current political scene is unknown, as are his plans for the future. For now, all we know is that it doesn’t seem like he’ll be leaving anytime soon.