The Obama family has certainly been busy since departing the West Wing. The past couple months have been filled with golfing trips to southern California, extended stays in the South Pacific and cruises on David Geffen’s super yacht in the Caribbean. But just like anyone else, the former leader of the free world needs to get back to paying the bills sooner or later. Good news is on the way for those of you who were worried about Obama’s future financial security, however. He’s going to be following the proud tradition of other past presidents and prominent elected officials, striking out on the paid speaking circuit. And his first gig is going to pull down more money in a single hour than 99% of Americans earn all year. (Washington Examiner)
Former President Barack Obama will be paid $400,000 to speak at Cantor Fitzgerald’s healthcare conference this September, according to a new report.
Obama, whose legacy item was the Affordable Care Act, will deliver the keynote address at the organization’s lunch in what will be one of his first paid speeches, Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino reported Monday. Cantor Fitzgerald is a New York City-based financial services firm that specializes in fix incomes sales, institutional equity and trading.
Just to be clear, I’m not here to criticize Obama for this. Quite the contrary, in fact. As I’ve done with all other private citizens who follow any such path I encourage it. Obama made his way through the political world to a position of prominence and now, as a retired, private citizen, he should be free to cash in to the best of his ability and live the American dream just like anyone else.
I felt the same way about the Clintons, for example. As CNN reported early last year, Bill and Hillary made an estimated $153M from more than 700 appearances on the speaking circuit between 2001 and 2015. (That’s an average of more than $200K per speech.) Granted, when you decide to swing back into the elected political scene (or attempt to in Hillary’s case) you may have to be prepared to be held accountable for where the money came from and what influence those paying you might have been seeking, but you’re still free to take the jobs.
The Clintons weren’t the only ones. George W. Bush did the same thing starting in 2009. According to Politico, Bush gave more than 200 such speeches commanding between $100K and $175K each. It’s added up to tens of millions of dollars for the former POTUS.
If, like me, you’re wondering why people would pay so much money for a lecture from somebody who is no longer in power, Lance Strate, communications professor at Fordham University, offered an explanation in this 2015 piece for Fortune Magazine.
“The speech is kind of secondary to … just being able to have a big name at your event,” Strate said. “It might get reported on some form of TV or cable news, which further adds to the prestige and the publicity of the event.”And even if it doesn’t end up on the evening news, almost every conference will put their speeches on YouTube, where there is always a chance it will go viral.
So it’s not about the actual content of the speech. These former officials don’t have some secret wisdom or recipe for success that nobody else is privy to. They’re just the very expensive bait which will hopefully attract a lot of attention to the event. There’s an interesting anecdote in that article about how Bush was hired to speak to one sports related association and delivered the sage observation that, “bowling is fun.”
So you get on out there and cash in, Mr. Obama. If you can find anyone willing to pay you, grab what you can. You can probably land another book deal for millions and the publisher won’t even care if they sell any copies. It’s the American dream and you should grab onto as much as you can get just like anybody else.