Winston Churchill was 65 when he became prime minister of Great Britain in 1940. When the curtain fell on the European theater of World War II in 1945, he was 70. He became prime minister again in 1951 at the age of 76; when he left office in 1955 he was 80. In his tenures, he rallied and inspired Britain to victory in World War II, and set the West's course in another battle against totalitarianism at the dawn of the Cold War.What happened to the wise elder?
Konrad Adenauer became the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 at the age of 73. He remained chancellor until his retirement in 1963 at the age of 87. As the first postwar German head of state, he sired the modern democratic Germany from the ashes of Nazism. He helped resurrect that nation from the devastation and destruction of World War II while presiding over West Germany's reconciliation with and reincorporation into the West.
In 1958, at 68, Charles de Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic of France. He held this office until retiring in 1969 at the age of 78. He oversaw the creation of modern France as an independent European power with an important role on the world stage. His economic policies stabilized the postwar French economy. It was de Gaulle who reached a cease fire with the Algerian National Liberation Front, paving the way for Algerian independence and defusing the great obstacle to peace in postwar France.
Golda Meir was 70 when she became the fourth prime minister of Israel. Serving until she was 76, she was in office during the massacre of the Israeli Soccer Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It was Meir, frustrated by the lack of international action to address Palestinian terrorism, who marshaled the Mossad to strike back at the operatives who perpetrated the attacks. She also presided over Israel's victory in the Yom Kippur War.
In 1994, Nelson Mandela -- after 27 years in prison -- became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. He was 75 at the time. His was a presidency that witnessed that nation's transition from apartheid to integrated democratic rule. He managed the delicate and difficult task of reconciliation between black and white South Africans. Mr. Mandela served as president until his retirement at the age of 80.
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