The death of Nelson Mandela is a great loss, but his life has been a great gift to the world. He leaves us with a legacy and a message that we dare not forget or overlook. According to one of his major biographies, Richard Stengel, Mandela had only one ideological/political goal: “Equal rights for all, regardless of race, class, or gender…everything else is tactics”.
Today, no matter what its present problems, South Africa is a political miracle. After 27 years is prison Mandela helped to create a “democratic rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world”. In overturning Apartheid rule Mandela sought to establish racial reconciliation, democratic and transparent public institutions, and a free press.
Unfortunately although Mandela was able to establish democracy and peace. South Africa’s economy still stifles the aspirations of most of its black citizens. When Mandela took office, unemployment was 55%. Today it hovers at around 25%. Unfortunately, 80% of the unemployed are black. Clearly much has been done, and yet much is yet to be accomplished.
But putting all the facts and figures aside the miracle of South Africa is that a man imprisoned for 27 years – came out of jail preaching reconciliation and peace not recrimination and vigilante justice. Of course, Mandela was not alone in the quest for freedom. He and many others lead this fight. But his face, and his actions became the symbol and standard of African freedom.
Leo Tolstoy once said of Abraham Lincoln: “The Greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last a thousand years…He is bigger than his country – bigger than all of the Presidents together…and as great character he will live as long as the world lives”. I think the same words and sentiments can be applied to Nelson Mandela.