Walking in the cold rain from the DuPont Circle Metro Station to the South Africa Embassy for the 7 p.m., vigil and condolence book signing in memory of Nelson Mandela, began with embassy employees at several embassies talking about Mandela and offering their condolences to the people of South Africa. “He was a great man,” said one embassy worker on the corner of Florida Avenue, N.W. and Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
The walk to the embassy from the DuPont Circle Metro was a good and brisk walk. The N bus also passes directly in front of the South African Embassy; however, walking to the embassy from the station carries with it the memory of the long walk that Mandela himself made to freedom. It was also a fitting tribute to a man who was prepare to walk, run, and fight for the freedom of his people.
The traffic on Massachusetts Avenue was hectic as workers rushed home from their week. There were a number of Metropolitan Police Officers present with the Secret Service Agents to provide additional security for the condolence book signing and the vigil; however, the men, women and children who braved the cold and the rain to pay their respect to Mandela were peaceful, orderly, and respectful. It is ironic that a poster for the new film about Mandela that had the words “Trouble Maker” on the wall behind the title was on display across Washington. The scene at the embassy reflected a man of peace.
The flowers under the Mandela statue in front of the South African Embassy covered a long table and overflowed to the ground. A South African flag was displayed behind the table. A mother walked into the embassy gate with her two smile children. She opened the door as an act of courtesy as the present writer took pictures of the people assembled for the vigil. As her young child looked up the mother smiled and held the door.
“People in the District of Columbia can be rude,” a woman said on the train to the embassy. Holding a copy of Mandela’s autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom,” later the present reporter looked at the women holding the door with her two children, and he thought, “Yes, but District of Columbia residents can also be kind.”
Patience is defined as enduring trouble, hardship, annoyance, delay, or slow service without complaint or anger. In June of 1990 Nelson Mandela spoke at the Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta shortly after his release from prison. He said many amazing things in his speech; but one of the most amazing was his call for people to be patient. “When I had been young, the people of Qunu were not political at all; they were unaware of the struggle for African rights.” However, after waiting 27 years Mandela said, “I marveled at how knowledge of the struggle had by then seeped into every corner of African society.”
It was not violence, or trouble making, that brought the racist system down in South Africa, it was Mandela’s patient, persistent, refusal to abandon his political beliefs that all Africans were equal. “During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to the 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,” Mandela said.
Nelson Mandela will be buried on Sunday December 15, 2013, in Qunu. The book of condolence to honor him is available at the South African Embassy. President Barack Obama will lead the American delegation to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela.