It seems out of place: The president of the United States breaking down in tears as he thanked campaign workers for their tireless work for his re-election.
But Barack Obama isn’t the only world leader unashamed to be seen crying in public – or simply unable to avoid it. Attitudes seem to have changed since the early 1970s, when an alleged crying incident during the presidential primary season went a long way toward derailing the candidacy of a Maine senator.
The teary trend has picked up speed in recent years, or perhaps it has just been noticed more often because of ubiquitous TV, still and cellphone cameras. Here are some recent examples:
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU
Victorious in his re-election campaign, Obama cried while giving a speech to his campaign staff and volunteers. He told the gathered young people there was no limit to what they could accomplish. The speech touched on his start as a community organizer in Chicago and reflected his faith that his young volunteers and staff would accomplish great things in the decades to come.
It was an emotional side of Obama that had rarely been visible during the long, often negative, campaign.
EVEN STRONG MEN CRY
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a judo fan and hunting aficionado known in part for his physical fitness. But that didn’t stop him from welling up in March after he was returned to power in a difficult election battle marred by public protests. It was a break with Kremlin tradition in a country where leaders are rarely seen to show emotions.
A defiant Putin proclaimed that he and his followers had beaten back opponents determined to destroy Russia’s statehood and usurp power.
The tears were ridiculed by his political opponents and drew some sarcastic comments from political foes in the United States, but did not seem to harm his standing.
NOT READY TO LEAVE
She was known as a strong, even imperious leader who thrived on power politics and led Britain in the war to recover the Falklands Islands. But the enduring image of Margaret Thatcher’s departure from office is the tearful face captured by photographers in 1990 as she left 10 Downing Street for the last time.
The “iron lady” was removed as party leader and prime minister after 11 years in power and replaced by John Major. The crying incident is remembered as offering a rare glimpse into her personal feelings, which were typically kept far from public view.
GOODBYE, MAN FROM MAINE
Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie was a front-runner in the race for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination until he appeared to break down while defending his wife from an attack by an influential New Hampshire newspaper.
Muskie always claimed it was snowflakes, not tears, but the damage had been done. His supposed crying was perceived as a show of weakness and instability, and his campaign never recovered. His rival, Sen. George McGovern, won the nomination, but was later trounced by President Richard Nixon. Although Muskie’s presidential hopes were dashed, he later became Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter.
THE WEEPER OF THE HOUSE
As Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner holds one of the most powerful positions in the U.S. government – and he cries so frequently that Twitter jokesters have taken to calling him the weeper of the house. He tears up easily, particularly when talking about the American dream.
He’s been known to cry at school events or when fielding questions from constituents or when talking about his family. A well-watched YouTube clip captures him choking up with tears when talking about the need to combat terrorism and provide safety and security for Americans.