I want to share three brief thoughts in the aftermath of the death of one of the defining figures of my life, Nelson Mandela, who has passed away this, Thursday, evening.
Mandela believed, as a young man, in the power of violence and was prepared to walk the thin line that demarcates between one man’s terrorist and another’s freedom fighter. But he changed and embraced a way of peace. The change was genuine and the power of his commitment to peaceful transformation allowed an entire nation to change with him.
I remember watching the Rugby World Cup Final in 1995, on the first occasion the defiantly Afrikaner Springboks were allowed back into international sporting competition. South Africa made the final at a time of tremendous fear in the nation. Many feared a bloodbath with fierce opposition to the end of apartheid among some in the white community and fierce anger against the whites from some in the black community. Mandela took to the field, to greet the finalists, wearing the Springbok jersey, for so many the very symbol of apartheid. It eliminated in a stroke the sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’. It was an extraordinary act of leadership and bravery.
And perhaps above all, this is a time to remember something that President Mandela taught me as I grew up in the midst of the anti-apartheid struggle. Freedom is only one long walk away.
The world has lost an icon whose life illuminated the possibility of change, the power of peaceful protest, bravery and leadership and the hope for freedom and unity of all humans. It was a remarkable life.
May he rest in peace.