6 Times Teachers Became Leaders of Countries

The unfortunately often quoted saying goes that “those who can’t do, teach”.

Last night outgoing US President Barack Obama gave his farewell speech after 8 years in office. Many have written on the 44th president’s political, economic or military legacy. What I most remember about him is that he was a teacher for some time before entering politics.

The following short list of examples of educators who went on to run countries as heads of state or government tends to prove otherwise:

1) Barack Obama 


The soon-to-be former US president is a Harvard-trained lawyer. From 1992 to 2004 he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, after which he became a senator. The rest is history.


2) Justin Trudeau 


The current prime minister of Canada is now just over a year into his term. He has been the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for the past 4 years. He has made headlines for his charisma, his hair, putting family over protocol, and all around likeability. One fact about the second Trudeau to be Canada’s PM that is often overlooked is that he worked as a teacher before entering politics. Trudeau holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia and was a secondary school French and maths teacher for several years in the early 2000s.


3) Laurent Gbagbo 


Gbagbo was president of Ivory Coast for a decade, from 2000 to 2010. Back in the 1970s, before he ever got involved in politics he taught history at secondary school in Ivory Coast, after studying history at university in his home country, as well as at the Sorbonne in Paris.


4) Jean-Marc Ayrault 


Ayrault was prime minister of France from mid-2012 to early 2014. Before ascending to that position he had enjoyed a 35-year political career in municipal politics and as an MP. Prior to embarking upon this long political career, Ayrault was a secondary school German teacher from 1973 to 1977.

5) Eric Williams


Regarded in Trinidad & Tobago as the father of the nation, having led the twin island nation to independence from British rule in 1962, Williams lectured at Howard University in the US, after completing his doctorate in History at Oxford University. He left academia to launch himself into national politics in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1950s.



6) Herman Van Rompuy 


Prime minister of Belgium for 1 year from 2008 to 2009 – after which he became head of the European Council – Van Rompuy had a 20-year political career during which he rose through the ranks. Before this, for most of the 1980s, he was a lecturer in both Brussels and Antwerp.

Not bad for a category of people who purportedly “can’t do”, I’d say.


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