Our new cover story on leaders is filled with the bold ideas and strange measures that politicians have taken to try and better their countries. But part of what makes the piece so fascinating is that all of these men and women have had unbelievable lives. Their stories sound so unlikely-- from a hippie, folk-singing doctor who escaped torture to become president, to an East German scientist and daughter of a pastor who walked over the Berlin wall and was so moved that she felt compelled to go into politics. The stories are incredible, but my favorite is that of Lula da Silva. This is just an excerpt from one of the profiles in that story.

The End of Poverty: Lula da Silva

lulaPresident of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva goes by one name, Lula. Because, like Beyoncé and Bono, he's just that popular. With an approval rating approaching 80 percent, he is the most beloved president in the history of modern Brazil. Of course, he is not without his critics. Lula's detractors call him an uneducated rabble-rouser, who curses, drinks, and smokes on airplanes—all of which is true. But to his adoring fans—the millions who chant his name over and over like a crowd at a soccer match—Lula is a hero who vowed to end poverty and then stayed true to his word. This is how he waged his war, and why China and India are copying his battle plan.

The Miraculous Bag of Money

Born to illiterate parents in 1945, Lula started out life in a hut with no electricity and only dirt floors to sleep on. At age 7, he sold peanuts on the streets of Sao Paulo to help support his family. They often went hungry, mostly because his father was an abusive alcoholic who had a second family and a total of 23 offspring. When Lula was 10, his mother, Lindu, decided she'd had enough. She gathered her seven children and moved them to a single room in the back of a local bar. But she still couldn't keep up with the rent.

0805The situation looked dire until a miracle occurred: Lula's brother found a package lying on the ground at the market. Inside was more money than a minimum-wage laborer could make in three years. After waiting a week for someone to claim it, Lula's brother gave the package to Lindu. She used the extra cash to move the family to a nearby industrial suburb. Life was still hard, but the move brought opportunities. Lula learned to read and eventually received vocational training as a metalworker.

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