These days, it seems like the line between politician and celebrity is particularly thin. When it comes to certain politicians this might be welcome; Barak Obama has 24.5 million followers on Instagram, with others, it is less so – I’m not even going to mention Twitter just now.
However, the idea of politician as celebrity is hardly brand new. We have been interested in and influenced by our world leaders forever. When we are lucky, we end up with intelligent, philanthropic leaders, or at least leaders who are fit for purpose: these politicians are able to provide us with soundbites and phrases that really stand the test of time, for all the right reasons. (Again, let’s not talk about Twitter).
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa: 1994-1999
This quote is actually from Mandela’s autobiography ‘ Long Walk to Freedom’. It is about the fact that within us all is the capacity to love and to be good and kind. We just need to access that capacity. The quote is about how Mandela got through his imprisonment; by noticing flickers of goodness in his guards, but it applies to us all. We can unlearn our hatred and our nastiness and embrace the goodness that actually, comes more naturally when you let it.
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” John F Kennedy, President of the United States of America: 1961-1963
This quote is essentially about civic duty and about taking care of your country and its citizens. It was an especially important phrase because it highlights the importance of community and discredits the idea of individualism. We are responsible to our country and therefore to each other. JFK was a democratic leader who truly called for the greater good. A lesson that is as relevant now as it has ever been; we have to co-operate to improve our collective state.
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain: 1940-1945 and 1951-1955
This, along with ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ has gone down in history as one of Churchills most compelling moments as prime minister. Churchill was a problematic leader: he is known to have been horribly racist, in support of eugenics and an all-round egomaniac. But he was a successful war politician, and yes his speeches continue to be bracing and British-bulldog-esqe, and useful to many, decades after Churchill first presented them.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama, President of the United States: 2009-2017
In fact, this quote is from a speech Obama made before he became president. But knowing that he successfully secured 2 terms as president, truly living the change in American politics- Obama was the first Black president of the United States- makes his speech all the more meaningful. He was right, we are the change that we seek, and this quote is as relevant now as it ever has been. We must be the change we hope to see in the world.
“Therefore we have decided today to implement a regulation that allows every citizen of the German Democratic Republic to leave East Germany through any of the border crossings… Immediately without delay” Günther Schabowski, Head of East German Communist Party.
This improbable man ended the Cold War in 1989 with just a bit of good old fashioned lack of organisation. In a news conference, the East German Official accidentally made a statement that completely changed the world: agreeing that the Berlin Wall was to essentially be made obsolete… with immediate effect.
Following this statement (which was meant to be something along the lines of: East Germans can now apply for visas to travel) the wall opened and Germans on both sides were able to travel freely, finally, the country was re-unified and it was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.
Leah is a literature graduate from Bristol. Likes: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, My So Called Life, Goodfellas, and Ally McBeal.