It might be surprising to learn that some politicians are shy. Some of the qualities of a great leader can be born out of shyness — the ability to listen and motivate others to action can come from a milder temperament. At the same time, most leaders who are shy at some point learn how to overcome their insecurities in order to fulfill the social obligations of their careers. Here are some famous shy political figures.
1. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was born to a poor farming family in Kentucky. Despite being shy and awkward, he went on to study law and later, politics. Lincoln was elected 16th president of the United States and was inaugurated on March 4th, 1861. Prior to his election, he became well-known for his stance against slavery. He became respected for his eloquence and knowledge, which culminated in the now-famous speech known as the Gettysburg address. Lincoln was assassinated on April 15th, 1865, six days after the end of the Civil War.
2. Al Gore
Albert Arnold (Al) Gore became the 45th Vice President of the United States in 1993 under Bill Clinton. He lost the presidential election in 2000 to George W. Bush after a controversial re-vote in Florida that was ruled upon by the Supreme Court. In his early political years, Gore was known to be a poor public speaker and was uneasy and nervous meeting the public. He also had a weak stomach and would get carsick when on the campaign trail. Despite his insecurities, Gore had a level of determination that helped him rise to challenges. An author and environmental activist, Gore received an Academy Award for the climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” He and his wife Tipper divorced in 2010 after 30 years of marriage.
3. Bob Dole
Robert Joseph (Bob) Dole is an attorney and politician. He served as a United States senator in Kansas, ran for vice president in 1976, and president in 1996. He was known for being shy growing up, but found confidence in athletics where he excelled. Dole’s right arm became paralyzed when he was hit by gunfire while serving during World War II. He is known for carrying a pen to signify that he can’t shake hands with that arm.
4. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt faced many hardships during childhood; her mother passed away when she was 8 and her father when she was 10. Starved for love and affection, she was a shy and awkward child who blossomed into a woman loved by many. She married a distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who later became President, making her First Lady. She took on the role in a way that had not been seen before, combining her sensitivity for the underprivileged with her knowledge of politics. After her husband died in 1945, she became a spokesperson for the United Nations. She died in New York City on November 7th, 1962.
5. Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt suffered with asthma and poor eyesight as a child, and grew up timid and overprotected. Determined not to be limited by his physical challenges, he began an exercise regimen that helped him grow strong and confident. Roosevelt later went on to become both Vice President and President of the United States, and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He died on January 6th, 1919.
6. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. Tall and awkward, Jefferson was known as an eloquent writer but poor public speaker. He is most famously known for drafting the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826.
7. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States and a military commander during the Civil War. Grant was known to be shy around strangers but could talk endlessly about topics that interested him. After being diagnosed with cancer, Grant struck a deal with Mark Twain that saw him write and publish memoirs of his life story. The memoirs sold well and earned him respect and acclaim. Grant died on July 23, 1885.