Today I’d like to pay tribute to one of my heroes: anti-apartheid activist, statesman, and Nobel laureate, Nelson Mandela, who died last Thursday at the age of 95.
In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for his anti-apartheid activities. He spent 27 years behind bars, condemned because he stood up for what he knew to be right. After his release, he could have dwelled in self-pity and bitterness—certainly his right given the injustices he’d suffered. Instead, he continued to work tirelessly as a standard bearer for social and political equality, becoming South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
For Nelson Mandela, “we” always trumped “I.” President Mandela left the world a better place than he found it. And really, what more can we ask of our heroes?
IN HIS OWN WORDS
▶ “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”
▶ “I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”
▶ “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
▶ “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
▶ “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
▶ “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
▶ “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
▶ “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
▶ “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
▶ “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
▶ If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”
▶ “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”
▶ “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.”
Dear President Mandela,
Thank you for your vision, strength, courage, forbearance, and compassion. You will be missed, but your impact and legacy of ubuntu live on.