Nelson Mandela lived with all the passion & intensity that any person could have mustered. He was every bit as courageous as any who have ever lived before him.
He vanquished the most vile and evil enmity that South Africa had known – apartheid. It was perhaps the most grievous and monstrous political policy enacted on any people since the Holocaust.
The foul and iniquitous segregational practice of degradation and dehumanization because of race or color became the great dragon that only the bravest knight would dare attempt to slay.
Enter Mandela – he was the absolute epitome of optimism and heroism despite overwhelmingly insurmountable odds.
He was the embodied phoenix that arose from its own ashes.
He proved that one man can make a difference – that one man can lead the change for an entire nation.
He did indeed, like his favorite poem “Invictus”, become “the captain of his soul”.
By William Ernest Henley
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul. “
Nelson Mandela not only became the captain of his own soul, but he became the captain of a ship called Freedom – a ship whose cry was destined to sail around the globe after its first port of call in South Africa.
And in the process of Freedom’s maiden voyage, he became the captain of our souls as well, steering us toward moral conscientiousness and undaunting diligence to insist on the liberty of South Africa’s black citizens.
In the end, Mandela did not merely gain his own freedom from a dark prison, but he took with him every citizen as well.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela
If it can be said that Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were perhaps the most socially important and influential persons in the first half of this century, then equally, Nelson Mandela is perhaps the most significant person in the last half of this century.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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.” Nelson Mandela
South Africa’s most noted prisoner became its most noted president and proudest leader.
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
He gave a voice to the voiceless, yet never shouted.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
He led the fight for freedom, equality, and justice yet never raised a sword.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela
He argued for the possibility of peace and the promise of equality, yet never spoke evil of his people’s oppressors.
“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” Nelson Mandela
And along the way, he never lost his passionate for what was right and he never let us forget that perseverance backed by a just cause can never be defeated.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, we the citizens of the United States, no, we the citizens of the world honor you and thank you for your victory over oppression and tyranny.
We honor you for your courage in the conquest over injustice, racism, and apartheid.
We sincerely thank you for teaching us:
We thank you for teaching us to stay vigilant without vengeance, to stay hopeful without feeling helpless, to stay prayerful without being pious.
Yet most of all, we thank you for teaching us to be the captains of our own souls.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela