With so much attention focused on the nation’s highest office over these past few weeks, let’s take a look back at some of the defining moments of past world leaders, both good and bad, that occurred this week in history.
On Nov. 17, 1558, 462 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I took the English throne, beginning the Elizabethan Age.
Following the death of her widely unpopular older sister, Mary I, affectionately known by the English people as “Bloody Mary,” Elizabeth inherited the throne of England and Ireland at the age of 25. As the second and only living child of King Henry VIII (you know, the guy with the six wives), Elizabeth had much to live up to if the Tudor dynasty was to survive.
Elizabeth sat on the throne for 45 years, ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity for the Kingdom of England. Known as the “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth famously never married, refusing to let a foreign prince or duke sit on her throne. Her reign brought about the English Renaissance, where prosperous times allowed artists like William Shakespeare to make their mark on human history.
England’s rise to power was solidified by her encouragement of exploration in the New World. While the first settlement in English North America would not be established until 17 years after her death, early explorers named the colony Virginia in her honor.
On Nov. 19, 1863, 157 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Lincoln’s legendary speech began the dedication ceremony of the infamous battle site of Gettysburg, Pa. Four months prior, 50,000 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, lost their lives in the 3-day gruesome battle for the town. The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg marked a decisive blow to the Confederacy, ending General Robert E. Lee’s northward invasion. The tremendous loss felt on both sides, however, prevented any form of celebration.
Politicians and ranking military officials instead used the opportunity to dedicate the site as a national cemetery, honoring all Americans who lost their lives. Lincoln, ironically, was not the event’s keynote speaker, as his 275-word sermon was meant to introduce the two-hour speech of Former Secretary of State Edward Everrett.
The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in all of American history, as it made clear that Lincoln not only wanted to reunite the country, but forever rid American history of the stain of slavery. In order to make the United States the true land of the free, Lincoln believed they had to win the war to bring equality and justice for all Americans, including those in bondage.
On Nov. 17, 1973, 56 years ago, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on the Watergate scandal, insisting that he “is not a crook.”
In June of 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, with bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash found in their possession. At this time, there was no clear evidence of any linkage to President Nixon’s office, leading to his subsequent reelection in November of that same year.
As time passed, more information was uncovered, building a larger conspiracy that put the president at the epicenter of the scandal. In April of 1973, a special congressional committee formed to investigate the presidential campaigns, putting Nixon in hot water with the American people.
In a press conference in Orlando, Fla., Nixon publicly addressed the scandal, stating “people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.” Instead of reassuring the American people of his trustworthiness, Nixon looked tense and incompetent, according to reporters who witnessed the event.
This speech marked the beginning of the end for Nixon who resigned from the office of the presidency on Aug. 8, 1974.
While these events seemed small and insignificant at the time of their occurrences, history has deemed them to be pivotal and era-defining moments of world history. Time will only tell how history will judge the events of today.