Go to contents

Ex-Leaders Glorify Their Past Work

Posted December. 28, 2007 03:54,   


Monarchs in history never relinquished their thrones before they died or were ousted. Moreover, they built edifices such as pyramids in order to glorify their past works even after death and to put pressure on their successors.

Nothing much has changed. Communist dictators who have built lots of grandiose edifices and statues are not different from emperors of history. Do leaders feel uncomfortable if they don’t leave some monuments before leaving?

The Financial Times reported yesterday that it is not easy for ex-leaders to adjust to life with less power, citing a variety of ex-leaders’ activities before and after losing power.

Firstly, many ex-leaders have chosen to build monuments in order to show off their performance.

Francois Mitterrand, former French president, seemed to have much interest in culture considering that he has built Bastille Opera and the pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre. Jacques Chirac, who left office May this year, built Quia Branly, a museum displaying handicrafts of the Third World. He wants the museum to bear his name.

In the U.S., retired presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have contributed to building libraries bearing their names. Benjamin Hufbauer, associate professor at the University of Louisville, said “Their centers just get bigger and bigger and are flattering to an embarrassing degree.”

However, since increasing numbers of successful politicians are leaving office younger and more energetic, they are eager to do more after retirement. Ex-leaders’ activities even affect incumbent presidents and politics.

Many of them create foundations to continue their works. A prime example is Jimmy Cater, who built the Carter Center. Through the center, the former president has aggressively intervened in conflicts and drawn much attention. Bill Clinton has also focused on environment and interfaith dialogue through his foundation.

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin established foundations in an effort to maintain their political power.

Some politicians have even swallowed their pride. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister in the early 1990s, returned as foreign minister in 2006 after serving the European Union and the United Nations.

Alain Juppé, who worked as prime minister when Chirac was the president, became Nicolas Sarkozy’s minister for ecology and sustainable development. However, he was ousted after his defeat in the parliamentary elections.

It has been reported that many British leaders, including Margaret Thatcher and John Major, dreamt of a comeback, only to fail. It also introduced a famous British politician’s dictum that “all political careers end in failure.”

The daily said France’s former president Charles de Gaulle took a dignified low profile on retirement, unlike many leaders struggling to show off their past works. He refused a presidential pension and returned to his house to dedicate himself to writing his memoirs until his death.