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The Early Jobs of 9 World Leaders

Long before they won elections, shaped foreign policy, or presided over massive economies, these heads of state wielded their influence on a much smaller scale, earning a living (or just pocket money) in bars, restaurants, and more. (World leaders: They really are just like us.)

1. ANGELA MERKEL // BARMAID

As a student of quantum physics at East Germany’s University of Leipzig, the research scientist-turned-chancellor worked as a barmaid. “I got an extra 30 pfennig for each sold glass,” Merkel told a biographer. “That added up to 20 to 30 marks a week, which almost paid my room. ... At 7 a.m. classes began, the disco lasted until midnight. In between I was always on the run to get cherry liquor, because that was the drink of the moment.”

2. BARACK OBAMA // WAITER

In addition to scooping ice cream at a Baskin Robbins in Honolulu—a fact he would share with future wife Michelle before they kissed for the first time outside one of the chain's Chicago locations—Obama worked as a waiter at an assisted living facility. “It was a great job, although the folks there sometimes were cranky because they were on restricted diets,” he recalled to Parade last year. “Mr. Smith would want more salt, and you’d say, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. You’re not allowed.’”

3. JOHANNA SIGURDARDOTTIR // FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Iceland’s ex-prime minister held a job as a flight attendant on Icelandair before she shifted her focus to labor rights, working as a union organizer for the airline.

4. SILVIO BERLUSCONI // CRUISE SHIP SINGER

The (now-disgraced) former prime minister of Italy credits his days performing on cruise ships with teaching him, as The Telegraph put it, “everything he knows about working a crowd.”

5. DMITRY MEDVEDEV // STREET CLEANER

The Russian prime minister likes to boast that he made just 120 roubles, including bonuses, cleaning streets when he was a student. “I loved this period of my life,” he said in 2012.

6. STEPHEN HARPER // MAILROOM ASSISTANT

After dropping out of the University of Toronto in 1978, Canada’s current head of government landed a job at Imperial Oil. Later, his boss there would remember Harper as a bright, hardworking young man, eager to make an impression. "My office boy was Stephen Harper," he said. "He did very well in a very entry level job. He sort of checked the cash, delivered mail and that sort of thing. He wasn't above doing anything."

7. MICHAEL HIGGINS // WAITER

Ireland’s president was born into a poor family, but hoped to attend University College Galway. Against his family’s wishes, he relocated to Sussex, England, where he worked as a wine waiter to save money for school. A journalist friend who knew the young Higgins at the time described him as “a very pleasing, radical, clever and intelligent sensitive person.”

8. ELLEN SIRLEAF JOHNSON // DRUGSTORE CLERK

At the age of 17, the current president of Liberia—who had been an ambitious and accomplished high school student—stunned her family when she wed a man seven years her senior. She followed him to Madison, Wisc., where he was enrolled in a graduate-level agriculture program. Johnson, meanwhile, signed up for undergraduate classes at a local business school and worked in a drugstore to help pay the bills—something her husband, who by then had become increasingly violent, didn’t approve of. (Johnson divorced him several years after the pair returned to Monrovia.)

9. POPE FRANCIS // NIGHTCLUB BOUNCER

Yes, you read that correctly. The leader of the Catholic church worked as a bouncer in his native Buenos Aires. What’s more, he used to go dancing—and had a girlfriend. "She was one of a group of friends I went dancing with,” he explained to his biographers in 2010. “But then I discovered my religious vocation." It’s a shame, because we would have loved to have seen him do the tango.

All images via Getty 

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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History
3 Fascinating Items in Abraham Lincoln's Newly Released Archives

The Abraham Lincoln collection in the Library of Congress just got a major boost. The 16th president’s full papers are now entirely available online in full color for the first time, giving you high-resolution access to his letters, campaign materials, speeches, and more.

Lincoln’s papers took a roundabout route to the Library of Congress. After his assassination, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln sent the president’s papers to one of the former congressman’s associates in Illinois, Judge David Davis, who worked with Lincoln’s presidential secretaries to organize them. Robert Todd Lincoln gave them to the Library of Congress in 1919, and in 1923, deeded them to the archive, mandating that they be sealed until 21 years after his death. They were opened in 1947.

This isn’t the first time some of these documents have been available online—scanned images of them first appeared on the Library of Congress’s American Memory website in 2001—but this 20,000-document collection provides higher-resolution versions, with new additions and features. Previous papers were uploaded as image scans from microfilm, meaning they weren’t particularly high quality. Now, researchers have better access to the information with scans from the original documents that you can zoom in on and actually read.

There are searchable transcriptions for about 10,000 hand-written documents in the collection, including those written in Lincoln’s hand, along with annotations that provide contextual explanations. Here are three items in the collection not to miss:

1. THE EARLIEST VERSION OF THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

Lincoln read this early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in July 1862, telling them he was going to propose freeing slaves held by Confederate rebels. Secretary of State William Seward convinced him that he should wait until there was a major Union victory to announce the proclamation.

2. A LETTER FROM MRS. LINCOLN

In the fall of 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote her husband during her month-long trip to New York and Boston about her dressmaker and confidant, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley, asking him for money to give to her to buy blankets for escaped slaves, then referred to as “contrabands.”

3. A DRAFT OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

This may be the only copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address that was drafted before he delivered it. There are five known drafts of the speech, but three were written out for people who requested copies afterward. It’s unclear if one of the other copies was made before or after the speech, but this one was definitely drafted beforehand. It belonged to Nicolay Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, who also helped organize his papers after the president’s death. It differs a little from the speech we’re familiar with, so you should definitely read the transcript. (Click “show text” above the image on the Library of Congress page for the text and annotations.)

You can see all the documents here.

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