Presidential library? Check. Future home? TBD.
The decision by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to build his presidential library in Chicago scratches one item from their to-do list for life after the White House.
Remaining decisions aren’t as pressing as where to put the library and likely will come near the end of his term or after he leaves the building in mid-January 2017.
Mrs. Obama says that’s a good thing because “we still have a lot to do in these two years, and it’s hard to do this and think about the next steps. I think the time will come when it will feel right to start thinking about what’s next, but until now it’s really about solidifying the work that we’re doing here.”
It’s also about not appearing more focused on the future than on their day-to-day responsibilities, says Anita McBride, a veteran of three Republican administrations.
“You’re president and first lady for eight years, not six years and five months,” she said.
Some of the decision-making that lies ahead for the Obamas:
Obama has said daughter Sasha “will have a big vote” in where the family ends up when his term ends, partly because the soon-to-be 14-year-old will still be in high school. (Big sister Malia is expected to be away at college.)
Some recent ex-presidents have their homes and libraries in the same city: George H.W. Bush (Houston) and George W. Bush (Dallas).
Obama still owns the Chicago home he lived in with his family before he became president, but it’s unclear whether he would return there permanently.
Obama spends Christmas in his native Hawaii, but it appears it won’t be his home post-presidency. The White House said Obama was not behind the recent $8.7 million purchase of a Hawaii beachfront home by his friend, Chicago businessman Marty Nesbitt. Nesbitt is chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation, which is raising money to build the library.
Publishing houses will pay millions for the memoirs of the first black U.S. president and first lady.
Former President Bill Clinton received a reported $10 million advance for his memoir, “My Life.” His wife, former first lady and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, is said to have received $8 million for her book, “Living History.”
Both Obamas are already published authors.
Obama wrote “Dreams from My Father,” “The Audacity of Hope” and “Of Thee I Sing,” a children’s book.
Michelle Obama is the author of “American Grown,” about her garden on the South Lawn.
Obama agreed in 2004 to write the children’s book as part of a three-book deal with Random House that included “Audacity.” He remains under contract for a nonfiction work that would not be his memoir, to be delivered after he leaves office.
Speakers’ bureaus are also likely to court the Obamas.
Obama will be 55 when he leaves office and Mrs. Obama will be 53.
Obama has talked about returning to teaching and to the community organizing work he did before politics. (He once taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.) Obama also says he’ll stay involved with a support program he started for boys and young men of color. He recently announced that a new foundation will continue the program after he leaves office.
“I’ll go back to doing the kinds of work that I was doing before, just trying to find ways to help people – help young people get educations, and help people get jobs, and try to bring businesses into neighborhoods that don’t have enough businesses,” Obama said. “That’s the kind of work that I really love to do.”
Mrs. Obama plans to stay engaged with her four major initiatives: reducing childhood obesity, helping military veterans and their families, encouraging high school students to attend college or technical school, and educating girls around the world.
“I do not have a one- or two-year horizon for this work,” she told a health summit earlier this year. “I have a rest-of-my-life horizon.”
After leaving the White House, Mrs. Obama looks forward to “getting in a car and rolling down the window and just letting the air hit my face. I’m going to spend that first year just hanging out the window.” It’s been years since she’s ridden in a car with the windows down and the “windows in our house don’t open” either, she said. The Secret Service agents who will remain with the Obamas will probably keep the windows shut.
Reprinted with permission from the Associated Press.