Top 5 Most Inspirational Governors

Earlier this month, former Vermont Governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean (Yale University alumnus) argued on MSNBC that a college degree is a prerequisite for becoming president and that Walker was “unknowledgeable.”

Out of the 44 presidents, nine did not have a college degree. This list most notably includes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry Truman.

Despite his lack of a college degree, Governor Walker became a highly successful governor and is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Love him or hate him, his story is inspirational. I decided to read the biographies of all fifty governors and list the top 5 most inspirational governors in America today, in alphabetical order.

Greg Abbott (R-TX)

At the age of 24, Greg Abbott became a paraplegic when an oak tree fell on him during a storm. Being in a wheelchair has not stopped Abbott from getting elected six times to statewide office in the nation’s second most populous state: twice for the Supreme Court, three times for Attorney General, and once for governor.

Robert Bentley (R-AL)

The 72-year-old two-term governor came from very modest means. Born and raised in Shelby County, Bentley was the youngest of six children. Both of his parents were high school drop-outs and his father was a sawmill worker. According to the Anniston Starhis family at one point lived “in a house with no electricity or running water.”

At Shelby County High School, he led the school’s debate team to a championship, became president of the student body, and graduated the top of his class. He joined the Air Force, became a dermatologist, and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives before becoming governor.

Paul LePage (R-ME)

No one on this list has a stranger life story than Maine Governor Paul LePage. The eldest of eighteen children, he was raised in a four bedroom house in a French-speaking Lewiston, Maine neighborhood called “Little Canada.” The children’s first language was French and usually did not learn to speak English until they were teenagers.

According to the Portland Press Heraldthe family’s only hot water came from the kitchen’s wooden stove. His parents slept downstairs on couches while the children slept in the two bedrooms upstairs, up to five children to a single bed. His father, a mill-worker, was an alcoholic and abusive.

When the future governor’s nose was broken by his father at the age of 11, he ran away and became homeless for two years until he started shining shoes and washing dishes. He initially got rejected from Husson College until a business connection named Peter Snowe (husband of former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe) persuaded him to retake the SATs in French, which skyrocketed his verbal score to a staggering 724. He launched the school’s first newspaper, became elected to class president, and eventually earned a B.S. in Business Administration.

After becoming a successful business and mayor of a small town, he was elected governor to the blue state of Maine in 2010, running as a staunch conservative. Despite being labeled as “America’s Craziest Governor,” he was re-elected in 2014.

Butch Otter (R-ID)

Born sixth of nine children, Idaho Governor Butch Otter AKA “Mr. Tight Jeans” attended fifteen different schools in his childhood because his family was poor and his father was a journeyman electrician. A gasoline accident that burned his younger brother forced Otter to take a year off from high school to work various jobs as a janitor, theater ticket taker, and lawn boy. Later on, he became the only member of his family to graduate from college.

After working for the Reagan administration, Otter became a four-term lieutenant governor and three-term congressman before getting elected governor in 2006.

Rick Scott (R-FL)

The current governor of the nation’s third most populous state is a “rags-to-riches” story. The son of a truck driver and a J.C. Penney clerk, Scott grew up poor and lived in public housing for three years, according to the Tampa Bay Times. His family at times had a difficult time making ends meet. He attended community college for one year before dropping out to join the Air Force.

He later accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth by acquiring Columbia Hospital Corporation in the late 1980s and other companies as a highly successful venture capitalist. Running for public office for the first time, Scott was elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

He once said:

“I learned hard lessons, and I’ve taken that lesson and it’s helped me become a better business person and a better leader.”

This article was updated on April 8, 2015.

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