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Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

I learned this morning from Arun's blog that Nelson Mandela died.  He was a great man - a leader the likes of which comes along only rarely.  Eloquent and inspiring certainly but also someone with a sense of humility and service. When he used words like "justice" and "hope" you felt it in your bones because clearly here was someone who had an intimate understanding of such things - the absence of the former having shaped his life in ways most of us can't really understand.  The latter was something that sustained him all those years he spent in prison.

A few years back I worked with a man from South Africa who told stories about the years after the end of the old regime in South Africa.  We, his colleagues, just had to ask him at one point why, in heaven's name,  he stayed.  He wasn't an overtly racist fellow by any means but when he talked about the years of fear and uncertainty, I think we all had to wonder if we would have done the same thing under those circumstances. He did it for his country, he said.  He had hope that things could be better and the new government had a vision he could follow.  Recreating South Africa was presented to him as a national project and it moved him to stay and serve.

That I would say is the sign of a great leader.  It's not what he or she does so much as what he can inspire others to do.   Here are Mandela's words from his inaugural speech back in 1994:

"We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.

We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world."

Nelson Mandela
Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace
(May his soul, and the souls of all the dead faithful by God's mercy, rest in peace.)


French Girl in Seattle said...

A fitting tribute. A great man, who remained, like all men, an imperfect man. He dared to dream; survived incredible odds; and inspired millions around the world. That is, in itself, an incredible achievement, and for that, he will be remembered. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Mariam said...
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Janet said...
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