Eminent person – Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle in World War 2, Photo credits : Wikipedia

Charles de Gaulle was an extremely important part of French culture and was  a French General,  the leader of the Free French Forces, the chairman of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of the Algerian Affairs, and was even the french president from 1959 to 1969. (In that order) Not only has he been awarded with hundreds of medals and awards from France and many other countries, de Gaulle is also held as the second best French president ever, just behind François Mitterrand.  Although Charles de Gaulle did not have strong relations with many world leaders, such as: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman,  Franklin Roosevelt, and Pierre Trudeau, 63 present or former heads of state were among those at his funeral.

Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890 to a patriotic and Catholic family and was well-educated. Even during his childhood, he dreamed of being a military leader, and in 1909, de Gaulle enrolled at Saint-Cyr, France’s highest military academy.  After graduating in 1912, he joined an infantry regiment serving as a lieutenant. Around this time, World War 1 broke out between several European countries, and de Gaulle found himself in active service fighting against the Germans.

During World War 1,  de Gaulle was wounded twice early in the war, and received a medal for his actions. Soon after he was promoted to captain, de Gaulle fought in the Battle of Verdun in 1916, one of World War 1’s most infamous and deadly battles. As a result, he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. De Gaulle was freed at the end of the war despite numerous failed escape attempts. Once World War 1 finished, de Gaulle wrote about a number of military issues in his books. Among these books, de Gaulle made suggestions for creating a better army, most of which were ignored by top French military officials.  The Germans though, followed some of de Gaulle’s recommendations, which proved to be very effective in World War 2.

At the time when World War 2 broke out, de Gaulle was leading a tank brigade. Quickly rising up to ranks to the brigadier general of the 4th Armored Division in May of 1940, de Gaulle then became the undersecretary for defense and war that June. After escaping to England, he became the leader of the Free French movement, and with the support of the British prime minister Winston Churchill, he broadcasted messages to his countrymen in France, urging them to resist the German occupation. De Gaulle became the president of France’s provisional government in 1944, but resigned shortly after due to a dispute over greater power for the country’s executive branch.

Despite resigning from politics over 10 years ago, de Gaulle once again returned to public service, establishing France’s next government and becoming is president in 1959. De Gaulle successfully pushed his country to continue its nuclear weapons program due to his concerns with the western nations as well as the Soviet Union. De Gaulle also supported the idea of a united Europe, but also fought to keep Britain out of the European Economic Community  because of its close relationship to the United States. Eventually, de Gaulle resigned in 1969, partially due to the student and worker protests a year earlier. This was his last connection to politics, and lived a quiet and peaceful life until his death in 1980. He was 80.

Charles de Gaulle in 1961, Photo credits : Wikipedia

Charles de Gaulle and I don’t really have the most in common with each other on the surface. I mean sure, we’re both male and straight, but that’s about it. de Gaulle is Christian while I’m not, he is white while I am Asian. What we do have in common though, is that we both share and interest in the military during our childhood. Even when i was in elementary school, I was looking at military equipment like jets, ships, and tanks. Unlike de Gaulle however, I am not aiming for a career in the military. Much of de Gaulle’s interest for the military is because he grew up in an environment when wars were a common threat and because I grew up in a generally peaceful environment, I don’t have his passion for revenge against the people who embarrassed his country. (Which is definitely a good thing)

Charles de Gaulle had the easiest route in life by being male, white, hextrosexual, and christian. I’m not saying that it was easy achieving what achieved, and it definitely wasn’t, I’m just saying that compared to someone who maybe was African, Asian, homosexual, or female,  it would have been a way harder task for sure. I hope to bring his story to life by emphasizing his claim to fame. Through the eminent person project, I hope to discover more about Charles de Gaulle’s life and to find out more about what we have in common. Also, it won’t hurt to improve my public speaking skills, research skills, and interviewing skills.