A few thoughts as we celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.
On this day, we learn that South African President, Nelson Mandela’s life has ended. His legacy to fair minded defenders of human dignity will live on for the ages.
Mine has been a fortunate generation. Not necessarily fortunate in terms of how wealth is often measured but fortunate in that in our days we witnessed so many history changing events and had among us such iconic leaders that even today we find ourselves measuring modern day leaders by the shadows of greatness of those who were once among us and are no longer here.
We have watched brave freedom riders taking part in the final campaign towards freedom for all inside a nation that claimed to be “the home of the free”. And we watched one small step for man and one large step for mankind as the first human foot prints were left on the moon’s surface. So many other events all played before us as we were the first generation to watch history take place right in our own living rooms by means of that early television that broadcast captivating test patterns until noon each day and then threw open its curtains and made the world a lot smaller for all of us. We watched as after 40 years of communist rule, the wall separating East and West Berliners finally fell. And we celebrated truth and understanding at Max Yasgar’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York.
We also watched a struggle for freedom as it took place in South Africa and came to respect the quiet, determined and courageous example of ANC leader, Nelson Mandela who taught us that being “right” without dignity was no victory. Mandela (affectionately referred to as Mabida by those close to the man) had finally been freed from South African prison where he had served 27 years in South Africa’s Rodden Island prison as a result for his opposition to the evil of apartheid tht had divided his native land into a house divided in which resided those who had freedom and those who dreamed dreams of obtaining the precious treasure of freedom.
Nelson Mandela’s eventual personal freedom from the prison bars that restrained him was an event that so many of us felt a connection to by way of a worldwide protest by freedom loving men and women around the world. And we came to know the man, Nelson Mandela as a living example of the attributes of freedom itself. He emerged from prison in 1990 without anger and rancor and taught us that, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” By 1994, he was elected as South Africa’s first black president and had finally succeeded in bringing the long awaited freedoms to his nation. Those freedoms and the man’s selfless dignity are the true legacy of Mabida.
And, we can only hope that future generations, our children and their children will be gifted by the presence of similarly great people who may someday walk among them as well.
In his own words, I shall remember Nelson Mandela best this way, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Rest in peace President and may that light of freedom continue to be an inspiration and a reminder that genuine fluid that lubricates the machinery of democracy is not blood. It is perspiration. Lay down your load, Mabida. Your walk is over and it shall be for the rest of us the shoulder that burden.