“The General” by Elaine Morales

Significance

Charles De Gaulle is probably the most controversial figure in the history of France and the most influential and known French figure of the 20th century. He controlled the politicians and fought against the old methods of the French Army. He loved France so much that his country was his priority, but he criticized the French people for their manners.  He was a respected man among the most important figures of the world history. He stood by his ideals and never accepted he was wrong.

De Gaulle loved reading books and writing his own memories. He was lovely with his family. He liked being respected, but not famous. De Gaulle avoided restaurants and preferred to stop the car on the road and make a quick picnic. He was so well known for this activity that when he died hundreds of people stopped on the roads to make their own picnics as a way of honoring him. A man with brilliant communicative skills, he performed well on television and on public speeches (Larson, 2017).

“The better I get to known men, the more I find myself loving dogs”.

Charles De Gaulle

His most controversial legacy is based on his foreign policy:

  • He supported nuclear weapons. 
  • Strong nationalistic: he defended a federal system in which the nations of Europe continued to maintain their unique identities. 
  • During the Cold War he withdrew France from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 
  • He was against the union of the British government to the European Union because of the dependence of this nation to the Unites States’ policies. 
  • Gave recognition to the Communist regime in China.
  • He wanted Europe for the Europeans (including the Germans) and never accepted external forces.  

“I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

Charles De Gaulle

Vision about the Future

When we talk about Charles de Gaulle, we are taking about a person with a unique vision about the future. At the age of 15, he was able to picture himself winning the war against Germany. Years later, he won one of the few pictures of the French against the Germans. He anticipated the globalization of the United States and took precautions to avoid dependency. He even predicted the next marriage of the widow of Rosevelt. When he was negotiating with the British, Charles predicted that they would be under the policies of the United States and rejected any treaty that included submission to the USA. He was clear about the progress of the nuclear industry in the future and advocated for nuclear weapons. He was a smart man who read three books per week. His experience of war, his knowledge of history and the books that he held in his hands, made him a person able to see the future and to prepare France for it.

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. 

Charles de Gaulle

Did he love France? Did he love himself?

A big question in history is whether De Gaulle loved France or loved himself. In my opinion, he loved France with all his heart, that he would give his life for his country. On the other hand, I think his dream was as strong as his love, and his dream was to become a general. Both were the reasons that made this man go to war twice, become the leader of the exile and the president of Fifth Republic. De Gaulle had a purpose in life, he wanted to make history, and be respected among the most important personalities worldwide. During the first war, he was wounded three times and his only worry was that he was not helping the French Army during the battles. This example shows his integrity and his passion for the freedom of France. When he was captured and spent three years in a German prison, his only preoccupation was that the war was continuing without him. This second example shows the love for himself, the selfishness and the arrogance of feeling necessary for the French Army.

He was a man of contradictions, a politician who thought that politicians weren’t sincere, a soldier who criticized the Army. He was a writer and a reader who loved to learn, but did not accept other’s theories. A man of peace that was present in two wars. A person of principles who loved freedom and considered himself a monarch. A president who criticized his country, and a France lover that did not like the French.

“Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him.”

Charles De Gaulle

Strength

One of the most important aspects about this figure is his courage and the intensity of his dreams. He was never defeated and always overcame every obstacle. This is a man who believed in himself. Charles De Gaulle wasn’t afraid of losing his life, or spending his best years fighting for a cause. He was always sure of his capacities to make France great and to win the war. He was the first in his family to make history and to change the world. He stayed with his beliefs until the end of his life. De Gaulle fought for his dreams, even after they became true. Since the first years of his life, he rejected any correction, and did not accept his mistakes. He did not look back, and when he did, it was to make sure that others were seeing how far he was going.

Charles De Gaulle reminds me of politicians such as Fidel Castro. They are two different men and their historical timeline is different. However, they are both figures that believed fully in themselves and made extremely clear their goals. Charles De Gaulle was a person of principles that gave liberty to France, but did not accept any kind of correction during his government. Fidel Castro was a dictator who realized he was wrong but preferred to destroy a country than accept a mistake. Donald Trump is another figure that seems to share this characteristic. He believed in himself and fought to become a president. A man of business who is able to build an empire, but cannot tolerate an immigrant on his land. A person who shut down a government because he wanted to built a wall.

In general, I do not think confidence is about Donald Trump, Fidel Castro or Charles De Gaulle. I think the ability of trusting in oneself is a characteristic that successful people share. In my personal case, I am a first generation college students. I am the first (at the same time with my father) to come to the United States. Four years ago I left my country, my mother, my brother, my family, and my home. I was a senior at Havana University, majoring in Art History, and I left my career as well. I sacrificed such important things because I believed in me. I really thought that I could be the professional I wanted to be. I wanted to travel, I wanted freedom, I wanted the air, the liberty of choosing what to do with my life. I knew my skills and I knew the future that was waiting for me 90 miles away from my home country.

Being here wasn’t easy. Working 24 hours for fifty dollars per day was exploitation. Sleeping in car, feeling alone and lost in a big city. Knowing capitalism for the first time, learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. Every Thanksgiving with a turkey ready, but none to share the turkey with, ending for hating Thanksgiving for ever. Dreaming, dreaming, dreaming is what kept me awake, firm, ready to wake up every morning. When things were difficult I knew I could do it. When people said No, when the English was hard, when none said “You Can”, I believed. I was ready to fight the world, I was ready to learn, to open my self to this new world. I had the universe against me, but I had me and America, and that was enough.

Bibliography

(n.d.). Retrieved from The famous people: https://quotes.thefamouspeople.com/charles-de-gaulle-6202.php

Jones, L. (2018, June 16). The man who revived la France; Charles de Gaulle is still a ‘brutally divisive’ figure, Lewis Jones learns. The Times, 11.

Larson, E. (2017). Biography of Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970). Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 4.

Rudolph, J. R. (2016). Charles de Gaulle’s military significance. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

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