Mark K. Updegrove
Date of Publication: 1 October 2006
Cover Price: $24.95
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Living in the era of Jimmy Carter, Global Peacemaker and the Bush/Clinton fundraisers I'd become curious about the lives of presidents out of office. This book was mentioned in one episode of the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, and shortly thereafter I promptly found a copy at Half Price Books. My three-star rating would suggest that I wasn't wholly satisfied with it and that's true. Much of the material covered by author Updegrove was familiar to me already. Yes, I'm more acutely interested in the subject material than the average person might be but I also suspect that much of the content would be familiar to anyone who's spent time in a doctor's office waiting room, perusing back issues of Newsweek. Second Acts is largely just a synthesis of presidential memoirs and press coverage.
I also found Updegrove's chapters largely formulaic. Each begins with that president's final day leaving office, staring into the unknown, followed by a brief survey of his life and time in office. Then follows a similar study of the former first lady, and back to the president for a review of how he eventually settled on a direction for his post-presidential life. Sometimes material is repeated from chapter to chapter, which is understandable given that the careers of these men often brought them together--or into opposition, but it does make subsequent accounts of these incidents rather dry.
|Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Ford & Carter.|
Also, I despise end notes. I prefer to be able to see at a glance where information was found, and any expanded remarks the author may have. Fortunately (and perhaps tellingly), there are no such remarks to be found; merely a running list of the sources mined for information. Following the end notes is a bibliography which may be of interest for presidential enthusiasts and scholars, and an index.
|Presidents Bush, Obama and Clinton (the only one of the three covered in Second Acts).|
From the White House Photo Archive.
Lastly, I would say that anyone who thinks that there is some kind of shared, collective mindset shared by politicians (you know, "they all...") should take the time to sit down with Second Acts. The nine presidents covered here (Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton) each had his own ambitions, motivations and conflicts. They didn't all get along, even out of office. Second Acts may not be the most detailed account of these post-presidencies but it's certainly a solid primer for those who may be curious.
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