In my personal pantheon of heroes, Nelson Mandela ranks very high.
As much as his inevitable passing is a sad day, I’m comforted by the fact that unlike King, Gandhi, and Lincoln, Mandela was able to live out his full lifespan and die peacefully of old age. Perhaps this was Fate’s payback for the 27 years of his life he spent locked away in prison.
What he did for South Africa needs no retelling here. Like so many others around the world, I have found his commitment to freedom and equality, and especially his steadfast leadership of South Africa into its post-apartheid era, to be both moving and inspiring.
Mandela spoke these words in 1964 when on trial for his life:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
And despite 27 years of imprisonment, he did achieve it.
Godspeed, Mandela. Thank you for all that you did. We will not see your like again soon.