Life After Power

Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House


New York Times Bestseller

New York Times bestselling author of Accidental Presidents explores what happens after the most powerful job in the world: President of the United States.

Former presidents have an unusual place in American life. King George III believed that George Washington’s departure after two terms made him “the greatest character of the age.” But Alexander Hamilton worried former presidents might “[wander] among the people like ghosts.” They were both right.

Life After Power tells the stories of seven former presidents, from the Founding to today. Each changed history. Each offered lessons about how to decide what to do in the next chapter of life.

Thomas Jefferson was the first former president to accomplish great things after the White House, shaping public debates and founding the University of Virginia, an accomplishment he included on his tombstone, unlike his presidency. John Quincy Adams served in Congress and became a leading abolitionist, passing the torch to Abraham Lincoln. Grover Cleveland was the only president in American history to serve a nonconsecutive term. William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Herbert Hoover shaped the modern conservative movement, led relief efforts after World War II, reorganized the executive branch, and reconciled John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter had the longest post-presidency in American history, advancing humanitarian causes, human rights, and peace. George W. Bush made a clean break from politics, bringing back George Washington’s precedent, and reminding the public that the institution of the presidency is bigger than any person.

Jared Cohen explores the untold stories in the final chapters of these presidents’ lives, offering a gripping and illuminating account of how they went from President of the United States one day, to ordinary citizens the next. He tells how they handled very human problems of ego, finances, and questions about their legacy and mortality. He shows how these men made history after they left the White House.

About the author(s)

Jared Cohen is the president of global affairs and cohead of applied innovation at Goldman Sachs, where he joined as a partner and member of the firm’s management committee in 2022. Before joining Goldman Sachs, he was CEO of Jigsaw, which he founded at Alphabet Inc. in 2016.  Prior to that, he was Google’s first director of ideas and chief advisor to Google’s chief executive officer and executive chairman Eric Schmidt. From 2006 to 2010, he served as a member of the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff and as a close advisor to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. He is a New York Times bestselling author of five books, most recently Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America. He has been named to the Time 100 list, Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” and Fortune’s “40 Under 40.” He lives in New York City with his wife and three daughters.


“Informative…Mr. Cohen shows himself to be a gifted artist in his own right…. [A] highly readable sequel that confirms the promise of the author’s earlier work.” —Wall Street Journal

“Displays an impressive breadth of sources and erudition… Life After Power is a richly rewarding and thought-provoking read.” —David J. Garrow, Free Beacon

 “An affable exploration of life after the presidency. With a storyteller’s verve, he profiles seven presidents… [A] fresh and informative take on presidential history. —Publishers Weekly

“The author packs this expansive sweep of presidential history with enough storytelling verve and grounded research to legitimize these presidents’ underrepresented post-term stories… An engaging dip into the history of the presidency.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A captivating look at how we find purpose and forge identity in the wake of major transitions. Life After Power breaks new ground by revealing who presidents become once they leave office. This isn’t just a riveting read for people fascinated by history, politics, or power—it’s brimming with insights for anyone who’s ever wondered, 'What’s next?'"—Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and Hidden Potential and host of the TED podcast Re:Thinking

“Most of us will face a dilemma as we grow older: how to have a next act in life that’s fulfilling. The greatest of all these transitions are made by people who suddenly find themselves as former presidents. Jared Cohen tells fascinating tales, filled with color and life lessons, of how seven of them handled it, from Washington to George W. Bush.”  —Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs

“For anyone facing a big career transition, Life After Power stands as a master class in professional reinvention, strategic adaptation, and even personal growth.  This book shows how a number of former Presidents significantly increased their impact after stepping away from the world’s most powerful job.  The lessons in this immensely readable work of applied history can be valuable to everyone. Highly recommended!” —Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of Linked-In, Co-Founder of Inflection AI

“Jared Cohen takes a unique and fascinating look at how seven individuals made the transition from the most powerful position in the world to consequential and fulfilling private lives post-presidency. The stories of Life After Power reveal a great deal about the true character of a leader.”  —Condoleezza Rice, 66th Secretary of State and Director of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

"In Life After Power, Jared Cohen has tackled a fascinating question: How do you find purpose after having wielded unimaginable power? His portraits of seven presidents provide seven different models. You will learn something new from each one and together they will make you reflect on what gives meaning to life, especially after the bright lights have dimmed and the crowds have gone away." Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and author of Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World

"Life After Power is for those who want to keep building whether entrepreneur, leader, or anyone else who's navigating their next phase in life." —Marc Andreessen, cofounder, Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz

"Jared Cohen captures, with great humor and depth, the introspection and actions taken by Americans who have been entrusted with great power finding purpose when their time on the main stage is over. The wonderful mix of the personal and historical will leave every reader asking themselves about purpose in life. Read it!" —Mike Pompeo, 70th secretary of state