Editorial: Significant contribution in his life
In remembering Nelson Mandela’s life, full of accomplishment as it may be, two junctures would serve us well going forward. In each, we are reminded to never give up our cause or our dreams.
He didn’t, and a country and world are now a better place.
While his time in prison and especially his home cell of 18 years on Robben Island have gained major attention, he almost didn’t make it there. He was on trial with seven other defendants. Death was possible. He got life imprisonment.
His words, which could have been his last, now resonate.
“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 so he lived, within a cell, with harsh treatment. A move to free him gained momentum in 1980. In 1989 the country’s new president, F.W. de Klerk, broke from his party, called for a nonracist South Africa and the following February released Mandela.
Leadership comes in varying degrees and stages, and sometimes from places where we least expect it.
Leaders find the right time. Telling a child there’s a time and place for everything is a way out of many situations. But there’s also truth in the words. And too many times, we as adults fail to remember the trusted advice.
Mandela, remember, even went against his party’s premise. He founded and led an armed wing of the African National Congress, believing all other means for peaceful protest were no longer an option.
Once out of prison, Mandela helped bridge time and place. He asked that forgiveness not only be extended, but also accepted. Neither was a given in a country many thought ready for war.
Mandela created a space, people made it happen and a great moment was born from an enormous opportunity.
He never gave up. He believed in the people. And he believed in a principle.
Followers endorsed his ideals and leadership, and together they gave the world change.