Famous world leaders and their lives


Mahatma Gandhi

In more ways than one, Mahatma Gandhi left his mark on the world.

Through a form of non-violent civil disobedience that would motivate millions around the globe, including many of the individuals on this list, the leader of India’s independence movement accomplished remarkable feats.

Inspiration was taken from Gandhi by world leaders, scientists, thinkers, and even entrepreneurs, whose spiritual importance was as profound as his role in liberating India.

In 1869, Gandhi was born in India, which was then a part of the British Empire. The Gandhi that the history books evoke was perhaps uncharacteristic of his youth.

Gandhi rebelled against his profoundly religious upbringing after an arranged marriage at the age of 13, by smoking, consuming meat, and even stealing. He sailed to London at the age of 18 to study law.

The 24-year-old Gandhi went to South Africa for a burgeoning law career in India. It was here that he encountered South African society’s deep-seated inequality and racial discrimination.

Perhaps the greatest turning point in the life of young Gandhi occurred on June 7, 1893, when a white man threw him out of the train station after refusing to move to the back of the car. That determined Gandhi’s first act of civil disobedience, but not the last.

By 1906, Gandhi had orchestrated his first South African mass movement of civil disobedience. Before returning home to fight for Indian independence, he spent the next 9 years battling for Indian rights in the region.

Gandhi had become a leading figure in the independence movement over the years. The “Quit India” movement of Gandhi in 1942 tiled the way for Britain’s inevitable retreat from the country after years of struggle and numerous arrests faced by him.

While a peacenik, Gandhi was murdered by a Hindu nationalist who, after the declaration of Indian independence, resented the leader’s tolerance of Muslims. At point-blank range, Gandhi who had spent his life preaching nonviolence was killed by a semiautomatic pistol.

For his contribution to pacifism, peaceful resistance, and plain living, Gandhi is remembered today. He motivated millions of people personally to act, preaching a message of love, kindness, and avoiding greed.

He influenced civil rights movements from Apartheid South Africa to the United States for these reasons and is today regarded as one of the greatest 20th-century leaders.

Winston Churchill

As one of the greatest figures in modern history and the savior of democracy, Winston Churchill has long been remembered.

During the Second World War, he was charged with the difficult mission of leading Britain and the Allied powers to victory over the Nazis. In the most destructive war of the 20th century, his intelligence, upright character, and determination guided Britain from the verge of defeat to victory.

Born in an aristocratic family in 1874, Winston Churchill served in the British military. Before going into politics, he became a prolific novelist. During the height of the Second World War, Churchill became British Prime Minister in 1940.

For its endurance, his long political career is remembered by people. It took a whopping 40 years for Churchill to become Prime Minister. Yet he became arguably the greatest leader of the 20th century when he eventually took the helm.

Not only was he instrumental in working with the United States and Russia to overcome the forces of the Axis, but he also helped to create post-war stability during one of its greatest periods of prosperity that lead the Western world.

The leadership style of Churchill proved so strong that in 1951 he was once again elected Prime Minister.

His power of oratory, which helped him communicate with an entire country, was among his greatest strengths.

The test of time has been defied by phrases such as “We will never surrender,” “The Iron Curtain” and “This was their finest hour.” The Nobel Prize for Literature and becoming the first person to become an honorary US citizen are among his many honors.

The inspiring leadership style of Churchill is particularly remarkable when you remember his bitter battle with depression, the so-called “black dog” of his life.

Many of Churchill’s accomplishments are credited by historians to his ability to use his manic disorder and bipolar personality to his benefit. These are only a few of the factors that make Winston Churchill special.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Very few Americans are as lauded as the Baptist minister and social activist Martin Luther King Jr., who, until his tragic death in 1968, led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

MLK faced a strenuous struggle all his life as an African-American. He was born in the rural South in 1929. The young Martin was considered a precocious student, growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, who paid little attention to his studies and found great disappointment in religion.

In his junior year, when he took a Bible class and renewed his faith, everything started to change. By 1948, before going on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he had received a degree from Morehouse College. It was MLK who opened his eyes to racial injustice at Morehouse College.

MLK and 61 other activists formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, following years of active civil rights activism.MLK visited Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in India two years later, which inspired him to embark on the road of nonviolent activism.

On August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Employment and Democracy, MLK would leave his mark on American history by delivering the iconic “I Have a Dream” address.

King had such a profound effect on American race relations that his efforts culminated in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which required public accommodation to be segregated by the federal government. The same year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to MLK.

MLK, before his assassination on April 4, 1968, continued his activism. After a two-month manhunt, his murderer, James Earl Ray, was finally apprehended. The murder of the King was a tragic end to a remarkable life that had a seismic consequence on an entire country.

Just like Gandhi, he proved that non-violent demonstrations can cause considerable change. MLK dedicated his life to the movement for civil rights.

Nelson Mandela

Very few people, including Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected President of South Africa, personify commitment and patience. Getting there was such an epic story that in 2013 it was turned into a Hollywood biopic.

Much like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mandela was one of the 20th century’s great pioneers of transformative civil rights.

Not only did he lead peaceful protests against the profoundly oppressive government of South Africa, but he also went on to claim the 1993 Nobel Prize for helping to end apartheid.

Mandela was neither a politician nor an opportunist, but a man genuinely committed to the development of his people’s lives and the extension to all nations of the same message of democracy and equality.

Mandela, born in 1918, became involved as a young man in the civil rights movement and spent 20 years leading nonviolent defiance against the government of apartheid. In 1956, on charges of treason, his contribution to ending apartheid put him and 150 others in prison.

While they were acquitted, Mandela started to understand that to effect real change, an armed struggle was required. In 1961, after leading a 3-day national workers’ strike, the African National Congress (ANC) landed him back in prison.

In 1963, Mandela was formally sentenced to life in jail for political offenses. He would go to prison for the next 27 years, where he faced inhuman punishment and contracted tuberculosis.

Early release was offered to Mandela during that time if he renounced armed struggle, a condition he flat-out declined to accept.

It was not until 11 February 1990 that South Africa’s new President, Frederik Willem de Klerk, released the now 72-year-old prisoner who helped negotiate the agreement to end apartheid.