I have been reading, following, liking, commenting and posting on the passing of Nelson Mandela. And his giant legacy. And his giant gift of sacrifice and love for humankind. I must share with you some wonderful writings on Mandela by some wonderful writers. I invite you to comment and share your favorite writings, images, videos, and thoughts on this very great man who transformed a nation, a continent and our world for generations to come. To Nelson Mandela with love.
Nicholas Kristof, author and journalist for The New York Times is one of my favorite columnists and writers on social justice and world issues.
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF December 5, 2013, 6:06 pm
Reprinted from http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/mandela-lives/?_r=0 (Image:Leon Neal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Nelson Mandela in 2007)
My favorite fact about Nelson Mandela is that he invited one of his white jailers, who had helped imprison him for 27 years, to his inauguration as South Africa’s president. It was a sign of the magnanimity, warmth and absolute lack of vindictiveness that marked Mandela.
There have been many great dissidents and freedom-fighters, but few have made the transition well to national leader. The qualities that mark a rebel—raw courage and stubbornness, even unreasonableness—don’t tend to make a great president. Mandela faced plenty of pressures to be petty, to humiliate those who had humiliated him and even murdered his friends, yet he somehow resisted them. He’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen.
More broadly, Mandela epitomized public service and sacrifice more than anyone of his generation. Here was a lawyer with a promising career who could have chosen to work within the system, and yet he tossed it aside to fight for all his country’s people. When on trial and facing the death penalty, he was defiant as ever. And then during those 27 years in prison, he was repeatedly offered the chance to be released early. Indeed, the government pretty much begged him to accept a conditional release, because he was an embarrassment behind bars. Yet he refused to accept anything less than an absolutely unconditional release—and eventually he got it.
Putting his country first also meant family troubles, including his break with his wife, Winnie, after he was released. It meant standing up to those long-time allies of his who thought that he was acquiescing in racial and economic gulfs and giving away the store. And it meant taking just one term as president, to show that South Africa would be led by laws and not presidents-for-life. That set an example for governance that rippled around the region.
When experts debate why Africa faltered in the post-independence period, one common factor cited is poor governance and poor leadership (partly because of dismal education systems and tribal conflicts put in place by colonial authorities). There were few shining examples of great leaders in Africa, outside of Botswana. Yet Mandela turned out to be as great as a president as he was as a freedom fighter, and his example was inspiring and contagious. All across Africa and the world, people turned to Mandela as an inspiration of public service and leadership. He raised the bar, and it’s perhaps not a coincidence that African leadership has been much better in the post-Mandela period.
There’s also a message for the rest of the world. When Mandela was behind bars and most needed help, much of the world was mute. Dick Cheney even voted against a 1986 House Resolution calling on South Africa to release Mandela. That was short-sighted, and we are similarly short-sighted when we don’t speak up for dissidents in countries from China to Bahrain. Eventually freedom will prevail in Beijing and Bahrain as it does in South Africa. Mandela’s contributions to black-white conciliation are well known, but what is perhaps less famous is his tireless work to fight AIDS, to bring peace to warring nations, and to promote respect for LGBT rights. In a continent that has often been deeply repressive of gays and lesbians, Mandela was a strong advocate of equality and gay marriage, and it was because of his influence that South Africa became the fifth country in the world to legalize gay marriage. He was a leader not just for South Africa but for the world.
So, yes, a mighty figure may have died at the age of 95. But travel around Africa and the world, and you see his imprint, his legacy, his spirit. Mandela lives.
This morning, my husband read aloud a short blog post by visionary blogger, Seth Godin:
Others can better write about Nelson Mandela's impact on the world stage, on how he stood up for the dignity of all people and on how he changed our world. For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of his life is this: You can. You can make a difference. You can stand up to insurmountable forces. You can put up with far more than you think you can. Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it. If you don't require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.
Doug Yeager, dear friend and long-time manager for Odetta and other luminous folk and civil rights singers sent out an email to his list today. Here is Doug's message:
Not unrelated to the civil rights movement in America, the power of music played a role in helping to foster harmony and unity between the Black, Colored and White races in South Africa during that nation's anti-apartheid movement, while inspiring the God-sent Nelson Mandela in his long struggle to change South African's society, its attitudes and its government to a more humane, just, democratic and forgiving society without having to resort to a bloody civil war.
Here is a wonderful scene of Johnny Clegg and his multi-racial band performing "Asimbonaga" in 1999 on stage in South Africa while joined by Nelson Mandela.
It is my belief that avatars, such as Nelson Mandela, only grace the earth a few times a millennia. However, I do pray that urgencies in central Africa, Sudan, the Middle East, Afghan/Pakistan/India and other dire threat regions on the planet will soon unearth and bless its inhabitants with new charismatic voices of reason...new avatars who can bring harmony, unity, peace and justice to those convulsing societies.
Words by Mr. Mandela: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
"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."
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
"If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness."
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
God Bless Nelson Mandela, Doug Yeager
Five months after his release from his 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela visited Boston, and on a Sunday morning he dropped in on the reporters and editors of The Christian Science Monitor. By John Yemma, Editor / December 6, 2013
It was a quiet Sunday morning in Boston's Back Bay -- June 24, 1990 -- and a small crew of editors and reporters was working on the next day's edition of The Christian Science Monitor. The big news of the day: Nelson Mandela's visit to Boston.
A Monitor editor spotted an unexpected visitor walking near the "reflecting pool."
It was Nelson Mandela.
Everyone in the newsroom piled out the doors to meet him. Mr. Mandela saw Massachusetts as the anti-apartheid struggle's "second home," since it had been a leader in the disinvestment movement that had put pressure on the South African government to change its ways. And it turned out he had a special fondness for the Monitor as well.
Mandela stood on the front steps of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, just across from the Monitor's headquarters, and spoke of the "warmth and love" he had received in Boston. He then surprised those gathered with these words:
"The Christian Science Monitor was well known to me during my 27 years in prison. It continues to give me hope and confidence for the world's future."
Richard Cattani, the Monitor's editor, recalled Mandela's eyes "darting with delight" as he looked at the flags around the plaza.
"We need a world without distinction among peoples," Mandela said. "We are all children of God."
Only five months earlier, the world had watched in rapt attention as Mandela made what is now known as "the long walk to freedom," emerging from South African prison after 27 years. Monitor reporter John Battersby was on the scene:
"Time stood still during the hour in which we waited for Mandela. But when the moment arrived and I saw the tall figure of Mandela striding toward the media throng, I lost all sense of time and ego and walked toward him with a broad smile. He noticed me, smiled back, and walked up to shake my hand."
That handshake was memorable to many. Mr. Cattani recalled in a column afterwards that the onetime boxer had a grip like that of Muhammed Ali -- "a contrast between power and gentleness, authority and humility."
John Yemma is editor of The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/editors-blog/2013/1206/Nelson-Mandela-at-the-Monitor-A-memorable-visitor-on-a-quiet-Sunday
It seems only fitting to finish here, for now, with Maya Angelou's illuminating, all-encompassing tribute poem: "His Day Is Done"