Charles De Gaulle
On doing research on the French Resistance during World War Two, Charles de Gaulle's name stood out. This stately man, whom I only knew as a president of France, as a youth and young woman, I was totally unaware of his distinguished life. Charles de Gaulle, was a man of prominence, deep nationalist convictions, and military mind, who played a key leadership role in France's Resistance during the Second World War and for many years to come.
He was also a complicated man. If you want to have a good read, here is a link to the Wikipedia information. If you read his bio you will find that he was more of a king than a president in many respects. Not so much a dictator but a visionary for a strong dignified France, a united Europe as a precursor to the European Union, and staunch defender of France's interests and colonies around the world. He also knew that France played a key role in the balance of world power, keeping Russia, Great Britain, the United States, China, and other powerful nations in their place.
He made several hard handed mistakes in his career, according to the article in Wikipedia, which were counteracted by the strong will of his own people, which were the only ones to which he did listen and condescend. Aside from being over controlling in his government, on the international front, one of those mistakes included how he dealt with Israel during the Seven Day War 1967. He blocked and denied Israel crucial military backing. In human terms, if it had not been for the help of the United States, Israel would have not survived. If you read on, you can see how his increasingly discordant rule began to careen out of control and he later did not receive the referendum results needed to keep governing and he resigned in 1969. Nonetheless, he will long be remembered as a man that loved France entirely and one of it most courageous defenders.
If you read of his sudden death and burial in 1970, it can bring a strong emotional reaction, and perhaps tears, when you learn how he was buried with the same integrity with which he had lived. He did not want powerful strangers and dignitaries at his burial but only those that were his true friends, family, and comrades.
When I think of him again or walk through the Charles de Gaulle airport it is going to mean a lot more to me, definitely than simply a picture of an elegant leader in a newspaper. Viva La France!