[FOUNTAIN]What will be Roh’s legacy?Cincinnatus was a Roman farmer. He was appointed consul by the Senate to defend against invaders. As soon as the war ended, he turned over his command and retired to his farm. In stark contrast, emperors of the late Roman Empire ended their lives tragically because they failed to turn their backs on power. People often refer to George Washington as the “American Cincinnatus.” Although guaranteed a third term in office, he returned to the farmlands of his hometown. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. After their retirement, James Madison and James Monroe revised the Virginia state constitution as co-chairmen of the Virginia House of Delegates. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was successful at having a second political life. His efforts repealed the “gag rule,” which prevented the discussion of slavery in Congress, and he served as a defense lawyer for the Amistad mutiny case. He established the Cincinnati Observatory and the Smithsonian Institute. He collapsed on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Outside of these examples, former presidents who have not been able to turn away from politics were usually ineffective. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, lost as a candidate for the American Party saying, “It is better to serve than to waste away.” Other ex-presidents like Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, and Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, had similar fates. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, who had been hunting in Africa, founded the Bull Moose Party, which he started by splitting the Republican Party. He ran for the presidency, which only helped the Democratic Party. Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, who was impeached by the House of Representatives, finally was elected to the Senate after two unsuccessful bids.
It is still unclear what President Roh Moo-hyun will do after his term is up. He is building a house, saying he will return to his hometown. It appears as if he is following in the footsteps of Cincinnatus. But he has also said, “I want to run for the speaker of the National Assembly at some time” and “I’m thinking about running for mayor of Busan.” People who are unsuccessful in their current political position rarely succeed in their second political attempts.
Newsweek Magazine chose Jimmy Carter, a Nobel prize winner, as the modern model for former presidents. He works hard to resolve international disputes; he has dedicated his life to build Habitat for Humanity houses. Compared to when he was in office, he is held in higher esteem because he was able to transcend political persuasion.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin-kook