A Farewell to Nelson Mandela
We learned yesterday that Nelson Mandela had passed away at the age of 95. His health had been in a state of decline for some months, but he was referred to as critical yet stable, so this is something of a shock, even at Mandela’s age. At a moment like this, it’s easy to realize how unlikely it is that someone like Mandela ever existed and how little chance there is of ever seeing the likes of him again. I can’t imagine the gravity of simply being Nelson Mandela. To an American, Mandela is like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK, LBJ and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all rolled up into one. How did he live with that weight? In case you’re unfamiliar with the man and just how big he is, consider this: Nelson Mandela is on ALL of South Africa’s money. ALL OF IT. And that’s really just a fraction of what Mandela meant not to just his people, but the whole world. The man didn’t retire until he was 85 – 85 years old! Again, as an American, it boggles the mind. Maybe he worked so long and hard promoting peace, opening schools and more even after he was President (and he was President only for one term and didn’t run again to establish a tradition of transitional democracy) because he spent nearly 30 years in prison, just waiting for the time to take up his cause again, free from the conditions that an earlier release would have required.
Nelson Mandela was the unbreakable man who never stopped fighting for what he believed in. He didn’t do it all alone, but he was a leader amongst leaders. In a century filled with inspiring heroes, it’s easy to anoint him as the greatest man of our time, a man who will never be forgotten. Sleep easy, Madiba – you’ve more than earned it.