The world's greatest leaders

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Who do you see as the three most significant political figures in or from your country - past or present, and in a positive sense. Why? Please elaborate if desired.

For me, [USA] it is:

Washington - for surrendering his sword and refusing to assume the throne as King.

Lincoln - for preserving the Union

Reagan - for skillfully ending the cold war without ever firing a shot.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Rach3
Ivan Seeking said:
The world's greatest leaders
Cincinnatus.
 
  • #3
turbo
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I can agree with Washington and Lincoln, but Reagan does not deserve any such honor. He and his cohorts committed treason by stealing weapons from our armories and selling them to an avowed enemy of the US (Iran), and using the proceeds to fund an illegal private war in Central America - a war that our Congressional representatives refused to approve or fund. As for "ending the cold war", he just happened to be on watch as the Soviet Union imploded. Spouting jingoisms and dithering cannot take down a superpower. "Tear down this wall" had nothing to do with the internal political, social, and economic forces that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. Washington rules: Have sex with a willing aide - face impeachment. Commit treason - have an airport named for you.
 
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  • #4
Rach3
Commit treason - have an airport named for you.
'Gotta love those nonstop flights from Ronald Reagan National to George Bush Intercontinental. :uhh:
 
  • #5
Astronuc
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Well, Reagan was certainly significant, but I don't consider him great. He was too dishonest/corrupt. He set the stage for GWBush, who seeks to emulate Reagan, and has succeeded to new lows. There were dirty wars in South and Central America, and the CIA was involved, so in a sense shots were fired by Reagan but not legally - lets not forget Iran-Contra.

Besides, the Soviet Union was riddled with the cancer of corruption and self-destructed.

Teddy Roosevelt was a great leader, but I didn't care for his intervention in South and Central America.
 
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  • #6
turbo
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Well, Reagan was certainly significant, but I don't consider him great. He was too dishonest/corrupt.
I voted for him in his first run because he promised to shrink the federal government. It ballooned by about 25% in his first term, and his actions convinced me that I had made a serious mistake. He was an actor, who could play the roles laid out for him by his handlers (like W) but it was soon very evident that he was a stranger to serious thought and ethical behavior. He was a patsy to the business interests that buy our government (through the manipulation of our entrenched and corrupt two-party system) and he did their bidding. It took a Democratic president (Clinton) to put this country back on a firm financial footing, and it took another Republican to bury us in massive debt while enriching the wealthy. So much for the "Conservatives". I loathe the two-party system and I change party affiliations whenever I think I can affect a key primary, etc, but I'm getting pretty sick of the GOP tactics that attempt to divide the country on idealogical lines (we own the US flag, motherhood, marriage, etc) to engineer elections and then maintain those shallow stances during the conduct of our nation's business, denying any real bipartisan cooperation. Newt was really good at this, and his legacy lives on in the corrupt Congress that we are left with.
 
  • #7
Futobingoro
Ivan Seeking said:
Lincoln - for preserving the Union
I believe there was a thread on here some time ago concerning some statements made by Lincoln in his debates with Stephen Douglas. I couldn't find it in my searches so maybe somebody could step forward and link to it. Anyway, if the transcripts of these debates are to be believed, Lincoln was a racist (or at least acted like one when the situation deemed it beneficial).

From: http://www.nps.gov/archive/liho/debate4.htm [Broken]

Try http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:WuZIFoeHy8UJ:www.nps.gov/archive/liho/debate4.htm if above link does not work.
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Today, most people are opposed to both slavery and the denial of rights on the basis of race. These two somewhat different ideas have been lumped together under the heading of racism. Slavery and disenfranchisement are now inseparable; to promote one is to subscribe to racism as a whole. In Lincoln's time, however, many of those who opposed slavery did not seek to extend constitutional rights to the freed blacks, or to even grant them citizenship. It seems that Lincoln may have been among that crowd. His position may have shifted after the debates, but I still find the above portrayal of Abraham Lincoln very different from the image most Americans likely have of him: that of valiant champion for the rights of slaves.

For instance, today there is probably a sizable crowd that supports gay marriage, but does not want gays to adopt children or serve in the military. If a leader from this group inspires a generation and is the driving force behind the passage of federal gay marriage legislation, he/she might be showcased as a great pioneer of gay rights in the history textbooks. A hundred years down the road, if the prevailing trend is toward a gradual acceptance of gays, an American might be horrified to learn that our pioneer opposed gay adoption and gays in the military.

I believe this may have happened with Lincoln. As blacks steadily gained constitutional rights, these advances were retroactively ascribed to Lincoln. The anti-slavery President also became the anti-discrimination, anti-disenfranchisement and anti-racist President.

That is the reason for the shock some may have upon reading the above quote.

However, there remains the possibility that he was merely speaking to suit the audience.
 
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  • #8
Ivan Seeking
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"Tear down this wall" had nothing to do with the internal political, social, and economic forces that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Not "take down this wall", rather it was the "evil empire" talk, along with the star wars ruse. Notably, he and Gorbachev [leader of the evil empire] became the best of friends. As for Iran-Contra, I watched the hearings and I never believed that this was Reagan's doing. I think Bush was at the heart of that fiasco and subversion of the Constitution.

I don't see many nominations... :biggrin:
 
  • #9
Astronuc
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Under Gorbachev (Горбачёв) the Soviet Union was evolving. Gorbachev was very progressive - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorbachev - who was mentored by Yuri Andropov, who unfortunately died prematurely.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorbachev#Political_career

Rather than assist Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher more or less turned there backs and gloated over the demise of the Soviet Union (perhaps the biggest blunder in US foreign policy during the Reagan administration), which resulted in Yeltsin and Putin coming to power, and the rise of the Russian oligarchy - which potentially has as much conflict with US interests as the old Soviet Union.

Reagan was responsible for those in his administration. He set the tone for unethical behavior, and is ultimately responsible for illegal activities like Iran-Contra. William Casey (and to some extent George HW Bush) orchestrated illegal activities, but Reagan was the boss.
 
  • #10
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Teddy Roosevelt was a great leader, but I didn't care for his intervention in South and Central America.
Pretty much every president has done things that someone would disagree with or think was an abuse of power. For the OP question, I tend to ignore the bad they've done and look only at the good, unless the bad so overwhelms the good. For that reason:

Washington and Lincoln for the same reasons (and a a short note about Lincoln. At first, the civil war wasn't about freeing slaves, it was about preserving the Union. He later freed the slaves and made it about that as well in order to shore up support from abolitionists as well as the psychological effect it would have on the now freed slaves.) I'm torn between either Teddy Roosevelt for his crusade against corporate greed and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act; or FDR for his ability to stave off the psychological depression that accompanied the financial depression; or Jackson because of his championing of democracy.
 
  • #11
BobG
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1. Lincoln

2. FDR

3. Washington

You really need to be President at a critical time and handle it well to be great. If you only talk about leadership ability, then Reagan would have to rank up there at least in the top 5 (Truman would have to rank in the top 5 as well).

How important is leadership as compared to policy? Most of FDR's New Deal was really initiated by Herbert Hoover in response to the start of the Depression. In fact, FDR characterized Hoover as an irresponsible tax and spend liberal because of Hoover's initiatives and the deficit they were racking up. Once in office, FDR did take a good look at Hoover's policies and toss out a few that he felt were hurting more than helping, plus added a few of his own, but his main contribution was restoring confidence - something accomplished with nothing more than his own leadership and charisma (plus a better name for his policies). Hoover's presidency was rated a failure while FDR is considered one of the three greatest presidents ever, at least partly because of his response to the Depression.
 
  • #12
Astronuc
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Pretty much every president has done things that someone would disagree with or think was an abuse of power.
Yeah - unfortunately that is the case, but that is probably inevitable given the nature of any state, whether the US or UK or Russia or . . . . There is always competing interests. At least we have so far avoided a Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Genghis Khan type.

When I was in high school, I chose Woodrow Wilson as the president about whom I did a biographical report. I was disappointed to learn later on that he was a 'white supremacist'.

The major problem I have with Jackson was his treatment of the Cherokee Indians, and for the treatment of all indigenous peoples for that matter.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Removal_Act
 
  • #13
Ivan Seeking
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Under Gorbachev (Горбачёв) the Soviet Union was evolving. Gorbachev was very progressive - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorbachev - who was mentored by Yuri Andropov, who unfortunately died prematurely.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorbachev#Political_career

Rather than assist Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher more or less turned there backs and gloated over the demise of the Soviet Union (perhaps the biggest blunder in US foreign policy during the Reagan administration), which resulted in Yeltsin and Putin coming to power, and the rise of the Russian oligarchy - which potentially has as much conflict with US interests as the old Soviet Union.

Reagan was responsible for those in his administration. He set the tone for unethical behavior, and is ultimately responsible for illegal activities like Iran-Contra. William Casey (and to some extent George HW Bush) orchestrated illegal activities, but Reagan was the boss.
According to David Stockman, it was Reagans star wars ruse that pushed the Soviet over the edge; thus ending the cold war and the greatest threat the world has ever known.

I remember when the faked [as we now know] footage of a LASER destroying a missile was made public - all part of the ruse.
 
  • #14
arildno
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Hans Nielsen Hauge-founder of the pietist sect Haugianism.
To his enduring credit is his commitment to alleviate the situation of the poor, by introducing and teaching new agricultural techniques, set up workshops, evolving micro-credit, and many other sensible measures.

Also, he fought the Church monopoly over preaching, and was jailed for this many times. In this, he is a hero for free speech. (He lived from about 1780 to 1840, I think)

I'll have to think hard to find two other Norwegians...
 
  • #15
Galileo
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I'll have to think hard to find two other Norwegians...
C'mon, don't you have cool viking kings? What about Eric the Red?
 
  • #16
Astronuc
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According to David Stockman, it was Reagans star wars ruse that pushed the Soviet over the edge; thus ending the cold war and the greatest threat the world has ever known.
Reagan supporters would like to believe that Reagan somehow was responsible for the demise of the SU, but it was inevitable. Under Brezhnev the SU stagnated and corruption flourished. Andropov became leader after Brezhnev's death (November 12, 1982), and started to introduce reforms. But then Andropov died 16 months later (Feb 9, 1984), and Konstantin Chernenko became CPSU leader, but he died March 10, 1985. Chernenko was pretty frail the whole time he was in office. Anyway, Gorbachev then ascended to power, and he started reforms - but the decay had already undermined the SU. In addition to structural decay in SU, the other major factor that undermined SU was the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_Afghanistan (1979-1989), which severely weakened. Incidentally, the war in Iraq has weakened the US and it will become worse the longer the US stays in Iraq, assuming the cost remains the same.

I remember when the faked [as we now know] footage of a LASER destroying a missile was made public - all part of the ruse.
I was working on dual-use, compact nuclear systems back then. In my work, I discovered that the platforms would pretty large such that SDI was not feasible. I was told to keep quiet about it. :rolleyes: After 1986, funding for SDI started to dry up. Also, it was well known by some that the anti-missile demos were rigged - and some recent tests are questionable.
 
  • #17
arildno
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As to Eric the Red:
First, he fled Norway on a charge of murder, and then he had to flee from Iceland, also on a charge of murder.

While US Republicans might think he represents the epitome of Scandinavian morality, I hope to show them wrong..(But I'm not too sure..)
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking
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Re Astro: Keep in mind that Stockman - the mastermind of Reaganomics - was no fan. He argued that the model would work but Reagan betrayed it for politics. That the Soviet was on their way down was well known. But, it was argued, a push for [at that time] unattainable technology would be the straw to break their backs. With Reagan arguing for the "evil empire", and with the absolute imperative for a balance of power, they had no choice but to try to keep up with our alleged successes.

Some recent test with the NMD aren't just questionable, they are also known to be a joke.

As for the platforms, are you referring to the stability issue?

Anyway, that was my vote and I don't wan't to derail the thread too badly, so I will offer no more defense of my choice except to say that I have no doubt that he was a good man. Today I would probably take issue with much of Reagan's politics, but I can tell you that he was exactly what my generation needed. Post Nixon and Watergate, post Vietnam, Reagan restored enthusiasm for America in Americans.
 
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  • #19
Astronuc
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As for the platforms, are you referring to the stability issue?
That was just one of the problems. Perhaps the biggest problem was the size - the shuttle couldn't deliver them - neither could anything else at the time. :rofl: And Teller's idea of the nuclear pumped laser was nuts! :rofl: But they did make some nice animations.
:rolleyes:
 
  • #20
loseyourname
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Assuming it doesn't have to be limited to presidents, I'm going with:

1) Robert E. Lee
2) Abraham Lincoln
3) Andrew Carnegie
 
  • #21
siddharth
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From my country (India) , I'd say

(i) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohandas_Karamchand_Gandhi" [Broken] - method of non-violence and peaceful civil disobedience to obtain independence, contribution towards the liberation of women, work against caste, religious and economic discrimination

(ii) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nehru" [Broken] - for his work on educational, social and economic reforms immediately after independence

(iii) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka" [Broken] - for his policy in economy, politics and religion as king.
 
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  • #22
Gokul43201
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From India, I'd have to pick Dr. Manmohan Singh for freeing the country from a doomed Socialist agenda.

From the US, I pick a body comprising most of the framers of the Constitution, and particularly the proponents of the Bill of Rights (Henry, Paine, Adams, Madison, Jefferson) for leading through reason and recognition of the individual.
 
  • #23
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http://www.abie-nathan.com/main-en.html" [Broken]:
In 1965 he ran for the Knesset. Although he failed to be elected, he promised that should he gain pubic support he would fly to Egypt –then an enemy country – with a message of peace. Abie fulfilled his promised on the 28th February 1968 and returned two days later labeled a peace activist, by his supporters, and an excessive publicity seeker, by his critics. The flight, known as the “peace flight”, changed the course of his life. It was followed by peace missions to Europe, the United States and Russia. Many leaders refused to meet with what they saw as a “gimmick” but others took him more seriously including the Pope, Bertrand Russell and other cultural and spiritual leaders. Returning to Israel, he decided to dedicate his resources and energy to the advancement of peace and humanitarian aid for the needy. For over thirty years, he spread his ideas, collecting money with the help of international organisations and set up refugee camps for the victims of earthquakes, hunger and war in South America, Africa, Cambodia and other countries. In Israel he contributed to many organisations in particular the Cancer Association, Ilan (Foundation for handicapped children), Yad Sarah (an Israel-wide network of volunteers aiding disabled, elderly, and housebound people) and many others. In 1967 he set up a radio station aimed at advancing peace in the Middle East. From 1973 till October 1993 the “Voice of Peace” broadcast messages of peace and love from the Mediterranean. From 1989 to 1992 Abie was engaged in a fight for repealing the law that banned meetings with the PLO, and met other heads of terrorist organisations in particular Yasser Arafat – as a result of which he was twice imprisoned. In 1993, following the Oslo Peace Accord, he scuttled his ship and continued with his humanitarian work particularly in Africa. In 1997 while he was travelling to the United States to write his autobiography, he suffered a severe stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Today, Abie lives in a Tel Aviv retirement home.
 
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  • #24
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Whoa... Where's John Adams?
Sure, Washington refused to be king, but John Adams did something just as impressive. For the first time his era, John Adams was faced with the facts that his party had been in power, and the opposition had just been voted in. Legally, he knew what he was supposed to do, but no precedent had yet been set. C'mon, we have here a new, developing country whose leading party has just been voted out of power; who'd be surprised if said leading power simply refused to leave? But that's just what John Adams did--he stepped down and let the Democratic-Republicans step in.
Also, he defended the British soldiers who were caught in the ill-named beautiful piece of propaganda, the Boston Massacre.
 
  • #25
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I see Lincoln in allot of answers. It is an admirable name; however, it is given allot more credit than it deserves. A reality that history has effaced is that Lincoln was not a man of conviction above all; his primordial goal was to the political interest of the United-States. In effect, Lincoln was no more a zealot of anti-discrimination than a typical American northerner of his time. He acted in the common interest of Americans, which is what is expected from a president. That is to say that any competent man who would have been given his position and put in the same situation would have been expected to take similar decisions – independently of his personal beliefs. Painting Lincoln as stalwart of human rights is disloyal to his true person. The modern image is only a myth; a myth that was perpetuated by his tragic death.
 

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