After being the President of Brazil for 8 years, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva leaves his office with an approval rating at over 80%. This is unheard of in the modern world of politics. In many ways, Silva has helped lead Brazil from a country that just over a few decades ago was under military dictatorship to one of the leading and emergent democracies in the entire world.
What is so compelling about his story is that he literally came from nothing. When he was a child, he worked to help his parents, who were illiterate, to sell peanuts. He did not learn to read himself until he was 10 years old. He grew up and started working in a factory and actually lost one of his fingers in the machines. He ended up getting involved in politics and rose to power, but he never seemed to forget his roots and the common person.
While President, he helped to bring down the poverty level from 33.3% to 15.5%. He also helped create many jobs in the Brazilian economy. He also took the compassionate approach and gave amnesty to all the undocumented individuals in the country. Though he is on the left, he took a more practical approach to the countries problems and avoided the extremism of some of the other leftist leaders in Latin America such as Chavez, Ortega, or Castro. He has also put Brazil on the international stage, trying to work through peace talks with countries such as Iran, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. He has not just accepted the policy of the United States, but actually tried to make another Western Hemisphere nation relevant on the international diplomatic stage. A funny story is how Brazil has now required only Americans to get a special visa to match the visa that Brazilians have to get to go into the United States.
In Latin America, it is strange to see someone from such a humble background rise to be president of the country. He seemed to have broken through the aristocracy that still controls much of the Americas. It is one of those stories that gives you hope and inspiration. In the midst of our political fighting and division, can you imagine a president having an over 80% approval rating- at the end of his term? It also shows how a common person can rise to great power and not simply fall into the “upper crust of society” but actually change the status quo and try to help bring up others as well. I am no way an expert on Brazilian politics, and I am sure if I was living in the country there would be many things I would disagree with. However, there can be no doubt that he will live in History as one of the great stories and leaders of our time.