With yesterday’s dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which brought together five U.S. presidents, we began to muse on these distinguished men’s lives post White House. What do they do with their free time? Do they even have any? For ”Dubya” he just revealed his newfound passion for painting. “Painting has changed my life,” he told ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer in a recent interview.
So who are his subjects? Apparently, Bush enjoys painting dogs and even does self portraits in the bathtub and shower (but don’t worry: those depictions are Rated G). And surprisingly, Bush’s work isn’t half bad; in fact, his new hobby has invigorated him. “Some guy one time said to me, ‘Man, you deserve to rest.’ And I don’t wanna rest. I wanna follow the example of President 41 and, you know, sprint into the grave,” he remarked to Sawyer.
On that note, we take a look at how former presidents throughout history lived their lives after the White House.
President: Andrew Jackson
Term of Office: 1829-1837
Nickname: “Old Hickory”
Post-Presidential Hobbies: If “accepting the worship of the people” is considered a hobby, then Andrew Jackson might be the president of that club. Jackson held fast to his politics in retirement and cared greatly for the legacy those policies would have. And despite controversial ones (see the Indian Removal Act of 1830), people flocked to his home, called “The Hermitage,” in Nashville, Tennessee, to pay tribute to the man for his democratic efforts. In 1840 he reportedly “dragged” himself to New Orleans, where the locals threw a “Silver Jubilee” celebration of his victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Unending adulation can be an exhausting pastime.
President: Theodore Roosevelt
Term of Office: 1901-1909
Post-Presidential Hobbies: If any former president was going to have a cool hobby, Teddy Roosevelt would be at the top of the list. Continuing a longstanding tradition of bad-assery, TR planned a yearlong safari in Africa to fill his time after leaving office. He wrote that it “will let me down to private life without the dull thud of which we hear so much.” But the only “thuds” Roosevelt would hear in retirement was of the animals he “collected” while on safari. Of one rhino he wrote: “The big beast stood like an uncouth statue…a monster surviving over from the world’s past, from the days when the beasts of the prime ran riot in their strength, before man grew so cunning of brain and hand as to master them.” His fascination with big beasts extended to his politics: He later founded the Bull-Moose Party.
President: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Term of Office: 1953-1961
Post-Presidential Hobbies: Dwight D. Eisenhower seemingly traversed the American dream from four-star general to U.S. President to Angus cattle breeder. In 1950 Eisenhower purchased 189 acres of farmland near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. After retiring he spent 15 years tending to his Angus cattle, which eventually grew to a herd of 100 strong. He won numerous awards, including a grand championship at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show and blue ribbons at the International Livestock Competition in Chicago. Even today there are still Angus cattle on the land of Ike.
President: George H.W. Bush
Term of Office: 1989-1993
Post-Presidential Hobbies: Bush 41 divided his retirement between local happenings in Houston, Texas, and world relief efforts with his successor, Bill Clinton. Right after leaving office, he returned to Houston with his wife Barbara and became involved in community activities, from volunteering at their church to sitting on the board for a local hospital. But H.W. played a big part in the development of his presidential library and led the Bush-Clinton Houston Tsunami Fund, a national fundraising campaign for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Between local and global relief, 41 could be seen playing horseshoes, riding horses, and skydiving to celebrate his 80th birthday. Not a bad way to spend the rest of your life.
President: Bill Clinton
Term of Office: 1993-2001
Post-Presidential Hobbies: Clinton was well known during his time as president for his skill with the tenor saxophone. (He even appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show during his ’92 campaign and played Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”) But when Clinton isn’t jamming or trying to save the world through his Clinton Global Initiative, he’s known to dive into a good crossword puzzle. He appeared in the 2006 documentary “Wordplay” and even submits clues to the New York Times for its puzzles. If you think you can outwit Bubba, take a shot at his crossword here.
John Adams had a wise saying on life after the presidency. Upon entering the world of retirement, he took to writing and often wrote about the natural world after spending a good portion of his life around farms. When James Madison was set to leave office, Adams remarked, “It is marvelous how political plants grow in the shade. Continual daylight and sunshine show our faults and record them.” Perhaps retirement was the real season of presidential growth in Adams eye. What do you think?