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Former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are members of a very exclusive club.

Charles Dharapak • Associated Press,

Former presidents keeping active after Oval Office years

  • Article by: NANCY BENAC
  • Associated Press
  • July 22, 2013 - 8:36 PM

– In the first 200 years of the republic, just three presidents survived more than 20 years after leaving office: John Adams, Martin Van Buren and Herbert Hoover. The odds for former presidents have improved considerably since then.

Jimmy Carter, who raised the bar for active post-presidential years, is 88 now, and 32 years out of office. No one has survived longer after leaving the White House. George H.W. Bush, 89, passed the 20-year mark this year. The two most recent former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both are going strong. Gerald Ford lived nearly 30 years after leaving office.

There’s a lot happening in the ex-presidents club these days — thanks to increasing longevity, the personalities of the current members and expanding opportunities for influence.

After a relatively quiet start to his post-presidency, George W. Bush in recent weeks has made headlines by speaking out for immigration reform and popping up in Africa at a wreath-laying with President Obama to remember victims of terrorism. Clinton, with his philanthropic work and a wife who’s a potential presidential candidate, is never far from the news.

The elder Bush, although frail, was at the White House last week (in jaunty red-and-white striped socks) for a ceremony promoting the volunteerism program he started as president.

And Carter, noted for his years of globe-trotting work to advance human rights, spoke out last week against “legal bribery of candidates” at home in the form of unchecked political contributions by outside groups.

Is all this activity the new model for ex-presidents? It turns out they’ve got plenty of examples to draw on from earlier centuries.

“There’s a whole class of people who leave the White House and continue to take a hyperactive role in American life,” says presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University.

He points to Andrew Johnson, who was elected to the Senate after a presidency that included impeachment; William Howard Taft, who became a Supreme Court justice; John Quincy Adams, who was an outspoken opponent of slavery as a member of the House; Theodore Roosevelt, who created the Bull Moose Party and tried to regain the presidency, and many more.

“There is no rule of thumb,” says Brinkley. “Each man is just different.”

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