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Why are the Gores separating after 40 years?

Even cynics were startled when former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper announced Tuesday that they were separating by mutual consent. While the rocky marriage of Gore’s former running mate Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton had long since become headline news, the Gores were best known for their famously passionate public smooch at the 2000 Democratic Convention.High school sweethearts, j
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Even cynics were startled when former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper announced Tuesday that they were separating by mutual consent. While the rocky marriage of Gore’s former running mate Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton had long since become headline news, the Gores were best known for their famously passionate public smooch at the 2000 Democratic Convention.

High school sweethearts, journalistic colleagues, Tennessee royalty and, in 2000, very nearly president and first lady, Al and Tipper Gore had an amazing ride in their 40-year marriage. Why they’ve decided to split after all this time has become a topic of national discussion, and even within their inner circle.

Speaking with Meredith Vieira on TODAY Wednesday, People magazine’s Washington correspondent Sandra Sobieraj Westfall said she interviewed a dozen Gore family friends in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement. And those friends told her they might have seen the writing on the wall if they had looked closely enough.

“They hadn’t seen it coming, but [said] if they thought about it more, maybe they should have,” Westfall said.

“The two of them have been living incredibly separate lives — their separate schedules took them in different directions,” she added. “They said they had just grown apart. Tipper loved life and wanted to have fun, and Al remained a very driven man with a lot of projects and irons in the fire.”

Diverging paths

Indeed, since the curtain came down on the controversial 2000 presidential election, when Gore won the popular vote but lost out in the electoral college to George W. Bush, Gore has become a Renaissance man. A tireless environmental advocate, he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in warning the world of the dangers of global warming in 2007, and an Academy Award that same year for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

But as the 62-year-old Gore traveled the globe furthering his causes — while still finding time to serve on the board of Apple and as an adviser to Google — his 61-year-old wife was often left to her own devices. Tipper, who worked as a photographer for Nashville’s The Tennessean newspaper while Al served as a reporter there during the early years of their marriage, continued to follow her passion for photography while also spending considerable time with the couple’s four children and three grandchildren.