Every town or city in France has a street named after Charles de Gaulle. Indeed, he was one of the most influential French politicians. His actions transformed the country during WWII and while he was president, from 1958 to 1968. At first, he was “just” a French general who did not accept the German occupation and the peace treaty signed by Petain (the head of the French government from 1940 to 1944). On June 18th, 1940, the world discovered him when he broadcasted a call for resistance on the English radio, the BBC. From that point on, he became the symbol and face of French resistance under German occupation. After France was liberated, de Gaulle set up a provisional government for two years before elections could be held. Recognizing the crucial role of women during the war, de Gaulle’s government gave them the right to vote. In 1946, he stepped down after elections took place. Although de Gaulle wasn’t active during the IVth republic, he was called back to the presidency in 1958 during a time of crisis. He wrote the constitution we still use today, setting up the Vth republic, in which the president has additional powers. De Gaulle was very patriotic, opposed both the US and the UK. As a result, he denied the UK membership to the EU. Opposing US’ dominance and thus Bretton Woods accords (which establish the dollar as the global currency, the only one that could be traded for gold), de Gaulle demanded gold in exchange for all of France’s dollars. This contributed largely to the collapse of the accords in the 1970s. His personality certainly played a role in his success, as he was charismatic and his speeches had the power to move crowds. Most importantly he was deeply devoted to his country, acting not for himself but only for what he thought was right for France. Although he stepped down in 1968 after the student uprisings and the failure of his referendum on the Senate, de Gaulle’s legacy is still felt today. Right-wing parties claim to inherit from de Gaulle, although the latter said he didn’t belong to any party. He was a true French hero.
– by Bastien S. and Alexandre B.