Dec 09

Like many in the world, I was surprised and saddened by the recent news of Nelson Mandela’s passing.

I’m not from South Africa, never even came close to the country, but like millions around the world I was inspired by his story.

nelsonmandela I first became aware of Mandela during the 1980s’, when the movement calling for his release from prison gained world-wide popularity.

His release, coming around the same time as the fall of communism throughout Europe, was a momentous occasion, but also one of uncertainty for his nation.  Would he seek revenge against his captors? Would he call for a violent overthrow of the government?

What Mandela did, of course, is well-documented, shepherding his country through a peaceful transition from an oppressive apartheid system to an elected democracy, preaching forgiveness for his tormentors, and allowing the bitter wounds between black and white to heal.

Mandela wasn’t a saint, as he did make mistakes while President of South Africa regarding the nation’s economy and the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent. He was only human, but he did the best he could.

What he did was provide an example to his countrymen – black and white – as well as the rest of the world that by treating others as human beings, reconciliation and positive change is possible. He exemplified the best of the human spirit, providing a strong example for all of us.

In a world filled with cynicism and despair, Mandela showed that mankind is capable of rising above its worst traits by what another great man, Abraham Lincoln (citing Shakespeare) defined as listening to the better angels of our nature.

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