By Cassidy Palmateer
Global leaders are meant to be the heart for all the people that they govern. However, in recent times, these leaders are becoming increasingly disliked and criticized. These leaders hold titles like President, Senator, and Queen, but often fail to capture what it really means to be a global leader. Lady Diana Spencer was one of the first authentically loved and respected leaders, and her tragic death shook the lives of many. Her love for others and genuine good intention captured what it truly means to be a Global Leader. Although she did not have the title of Queen or President, she did more in her short 36 years than many do in their century long lifetimes.
In 1981, Lady Diana Spencer entered the public eye in full force, engaged to Prince Charles of England. She immediately captivated the people, and, in turn, the media, with her blatant refusal to accept the status quo associated with royal life. She wore plunging v necks, now-iconic slip dresses, took a very hands-on approach to raising her children – all characteristics that were decidedly un-royal, and got herself quite the rebellious reputation. One of her greatest acts of rebellion was the amount of love that she showed her people, especially those who had not received love from many other leaders before.
Seeking to make a change in a broken system of leaders, Princess Diana sought to help her people. In the late 1980s, the public finally tuned in to the horrors caused by the AIDS crisis. Misinformation in the media lead to direct hatred, and exclusion of anyone who could be affected by the virus, believing the disease could be spread by touch. In 1987, Princess Diana helped open the first AIDs ward in London, and was photographed shaking the hand of a patient in the ward, without gloves. This was the first time a public figure had shown support for a person with the illness in an effort to lessen the stigma attached. In 1989, she began her work with the Leprosy Mission, being filmed shaking hands and touching the bandages of patients in Indonesia. Diana visited leprosy hospitals in Nepal, Zimbabwe, India, and more, in an attempt to show patients that “they are not reviled.” Princess Diana even got her children involved in her efforts, bringing her sons, Prince William, and Prince Harry, to volunteer with her at Centrepoint, a charity helping homeless youth find shelter, jobs, and food. As Prince Harry supported the organization far into his adult life, her legacy lived on.
She was known to be a champion for children, taking regular visits to London children's hospitals. She sat with these children for up to four hours at a time, three days per week, just so they would know that someone was with them in what could be their worst, or last, moments.
One of her most daring campaigns was her fight against the production and use of landmines. Her fight against the subject was later shared on film when statistics were released that Angola had the highest percentage of amputees in the world. Most of these casualties came from landmine explosions. This evidence fueled Diana’s passion for her fight against the use of landmines. She volunteered for the International Red Cross, visiting Angola with the Halo Trust to shed light on the atrocities suffered by children in areas with a high number of landmines. She walked through live minefields, twice in an attempt to show the gravity of the subject. One year after her passing, the Ottawa Treaty was passed, internationally banning landmines by 161 states.
During her tenure as a member of the royal family, Lady Diana served as the president or patron for more than 100 charities. She kept her responsibilities at six of the organizations after her divorce from Prince Charles and continued to demonstrate affection to her beloved people. After her premature death, more than $100 million worth of donations came flooding in on her behalf, leading to the formation of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Her sons continue this legacy to this day.
It is not always the case that leaders are found in palaces, capitals, or offices. They can be found on the streets alongside people who have never even seen the inside of a palace or capitol building. True leaders are found sharing a meal with those who may not be able to afford one and shaking the hand of someone who may disagree with them. Leaders are not simply handed down a title from generation to generation, they are formed from circumstances greater than themselves, and hearts too large to be contained in palace walls.