15 Fascinating Facts About World Leaders Past and Present

Some of the world’s most polarizing figures seem to be so much larger than life that we forget they’re human. We see them on TV and in our history books, but inside, they’re humans like the rest of us.

Some of these leaders are downright evil, while others led their countries to great heights. They all had little quirks we might not be aware of. These are some of the most unique traits of some of the most famous world leaders.

1. Winston Churchill

Image Credit: By digitized by: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives – Flickr: Sir Winston Churchill, Public Domain, WikiCommons.

Winston Churchill accomplished many things in his illustrious career. He served in the British Parliament under six monarchs, won a Nobel Prize, and was the Prime minister for two terms. Still, he had a little secret.

The leader enjoyed his suits, and his favorite was his birthday suit. His staff noted they constantly stumbled in on him in the buff. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt walked in on him, Churchill proudly responded with, “You see, Mr. President, I have nothing to hide.”

2. Kim Jong Il

Image Credit: By Jesse Charlie – Own work, CC0, WikiCommons.

The former Supreme Leader of North Korea was not normal. There is a lot to unpack about this egomaniac, but I’ll stick to his obsession with basketball, particularly Michael Jordan. The super fan owned VHS copies of every single game Jordan played with the Chicago Bulls.

When the United States gifted him a signed bill, he built a museum to keep it in. He then went on to create his own type of basketball, where dunks were worth three points, missed free throws were worth negative points, and baskets made in the final seconds were worth eight points.

3. Saddam Hussein

Image Credit: By N/A. Edited by jjron – http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/DVIC_View/Still_Details.cfm?SDAN=DDSD0503992&JPGPath=/Assets/2005/DoD/DD-SD-05-03992.JPG, Public Domain, WikiCommons.

The Iraqi dictator is known for being a major enemy of the United States. For most of his regime, he was considered public enemy number one by the U.S. military. Even with his extreme hatred for our country, he was a big fan of our snacks.

Saddam Hussein was addicted to Cheetos. Those close to him claimed the man could eat a family-size bag in less than an hour. His guards tried to keep them handy as often as possible. Still, when Cheetos were unavailable, a grumpy Saddam would settle for Doritos.

4. Kim Il Sung

Image Credit: By Unknown author – http://www.jajuminbo.com/138, CC BY-SA 4.0, WikiCommons.

The dictators of North Korea love to embellish stories to feed their egos. Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first dictator, claimed to have participated in 100,000 battles during World War II over 15 years. If you break down the math, that comes to 20 battles daily.

Even more impressive is that, according to the rest of the world, World War II only lasted six years. That’s quite an accomplishment, Mr. Sung.

5. Bob Hawke

Image Credit: By Tribune (Australian newspaper) – http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110375183Acknowledgement: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy SEARCH Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0, WikiCommons.

Although his name might not be as common as others on this list, the former Prime Minister of Australia was once a world record holder for beer chugging. In 1953, while studying in college, Hawke chugged a yard of ale — about 2 ½ imperial pints — in 11 seconds. That feat got his name in the Guinness Book of World Records until it was ultimately broken.

If you ask Hawke, he believes his yard of ale chug is responsible for his political success.

6. Mikhail Gorbachev

Image Credit: By White House Photo Office – http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/photographs/large/c44007-9.jpg, Public Domain, WikiCommons.

The last leader of the Soviet Union has the legacy of bringing down the reign of communism in Russia. While that’s an honorable achievement, he has a few other awards he might be more proud of.

In 2004, the leader won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children. Gorbachev won for his work on a recording of Peter and the Wolf. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton also received a Grammy in the Spoken Word category.

7. Abraham Lincoln

Image Credit: By Alexander Gardner – Public Domain,WikiCommons.

We all know Abraham Lincoln’s history. The 16th president helped end slavery and backed civil equality, but unfortunately, he died when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

What you might not know, however, is that Lincoln was a talented wrestler. Although it might be an exaggeration, some sources claim he participated in 300 matches, losing only once. His skills earned him entry into the Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.

8. Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Before Napoleon conquered France, he was a hopeless romantic, falling in love with whatever women sparked his interest. In 1795, a young Napoleon was enamored of his brother’s fiancee, Désirée Clary.

He wrote about his relationship and love with Désirée, spicing it up with betrayal and death. Eventually, he realized he was destined to be a ruler instead of a novelist, and the rest is history.

9. Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Image Credit: Pete Souza/Wiki Commons.

Former President Obama is no stranger to breaking the mold. Not only was he the first African-American to become President of the United States, but he was also the first president to use the social media app Twitter, now known as X.

During his 2008 campaign, his account was the most followed on the platform. I wonder what the former president is most proud of.

10. Xi Jinping

Image Credit: By government.ru, CC BY 4.0,, WikiCommons.

The current paramount leader of China did not grow up enjoying the prosperity that many world leaders have. After his father was purged from the Communist Party, Xi was forced to live in a cave for seven years, enduring hard labor and harsh weather.

He was forced into farm work until he was eventually allowed to attend a university. Today, the cave is a popular tourist attraction for the residents of China.

11. Harry S. Truman

Image Credit: By Greta Kempton – Harry S. Truman Library, Public Domain, WikiCommons.

The 33rd president of the United States is most famously known for approving the use of the atomic bomb on the empire of Japan. The act effectively ended the war, etching the name Harry S. Truman in the history books. How many people know what the “S”‘ in the former president’s name stands for? Trick question: The man has no middle name unless you consider the single letter “S” to be a name.

12. Adolf Hitler

Image Credit: By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S33882 / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, WikiCommons.

This sadistic dictator is one of the most infamous men in the last 100 years. Still, some facts would surprise you about the ruler. Before he ruled Nazi Germany, Hitler was put up for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939. A Swedish legislator nominated him as a joke, but the joke never landed.

It’s hard to believe that a man filled with so much evil was once up for such a prestigious award.

13. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
Image Credit: American Press Association/Wiki Commons.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt earned a reputation as a larger-than-life character. One of the stories that have been told about the man is when he was shot by attempted assassin John Schrank. Teddy was hit, showcased his blood-filled shirt to the audience, and continued his speech for another 84 minutes.

The bullet lodged between his ribs and stayed there until his death. I wasn’t around back then, but he would have gotten my vote.

14. Joseph Stalin

Image Credit: Public Domain, WikiCommons.

Stalin might be known for his reign as General Secretary of the Communist Party, but he had aspirations before that. His original career path involved becoming a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church.

He attended the Tbilisi Theological Seminary on a full scholarship, which is a big difference from becoming a dictator. It’s hard to imagine how the path of history would have changed if he had stayed on that religious journey.

15. William Howard Taft

Image Credit: By Pach Brothers, restored by Adam Cuerden – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. NPG.80.198, Public Domain, WikiCommons.

Former President Taft might go down in the record books for his large waistline, but he also helped create a tradition in baseball that is still done today.

On April 14, 1910, the Washington Senators were set to play the Philadelphia Athletics in front of a sold-out crowd. President Taft threw the pitch to famed pitcher Walter Johnson, and the crowd went wild. In the years since, 17 sitting presidents have thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day, making it one of the best traditions of our nation’s pastime.

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