Some people remain alive even after death. Nelson Mandela was one of them.
India acknowledged the greatness of the legend much before the world could wake up to his wisdom of sublime character.
India’s conferring him with Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honour, came much before the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to him in 1993. He was the first non-Indian recipient of the prestigious Bharat Ratna.
His majesty lies in the continual search for the highest ideals for humanity, which he never ceased to pursue, even when he was insulted, imprisoned and put on trial.
Where does the path of Mandela inspire us to lead? A deeper reflection will take us to the legacy of his tolerance and reconciliation…the cornerstone of his life.
He had once remarked: ‘“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.”
Mandela truly believed in the glory of human freedom. He stood firm and took his country from the extremes of apartheid to the path of democracy.
He said, ”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.’
Mandela had a lifelong respect for education. He saw equality of opportunity through education as the key to emancipation, a principle yet to be realized in South Africa, or elsewhere in the world.
He emphasized the principle of leadership through values and dealt severely with widespread perceptions of incompetence and abuse of power, a bitter reality we currently go through.
Mr. Nelson Mandela based his entire life on the principle of dialogue and the art of listening and speaking to others.
Drawing on the rich traditions of transformative dialogue, problem-solving and social renewal he facilitated greater understanding and awareness about the problems faced by people around the world.
His fearless struggle was against the evil of racism, that is to say, white oppression in South Africa.
Through his crusade, he taught the world what activism really meant. With no fear in his heart, Mandela stood up to those who sought to oppress others.
Speaking at his own defense case in Pretoria in 1964, he said: ‘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.’
On his release from prison and subsequent election to the leadership of South Africa he had every reason to seek revenge on those who had imprisoned him.
Instead he advocated forgiveness and a new start. As such he is a model figure for all those areas of the world where past history breeds revenge.
His respect for informed criticism and research-based perspectives was palpable. He gave credence to logic and disapproved falsehood.
Mandela’s leadership in combating HIV/Aids was his yet greatest contribution after standing down as president.
He had acknowledged that he had been too slow to recognize the danger, oversensitive to the traditional reticence to talk about sex or sexuality. He went on to lead a global campaign for awareness and effective and appropriate treatment.
Mandela was undoubtedly an inspirational figure. He had touched and positively enriched the lives of thousands of children through visits to schools, hospitals and other institutions.
His messages of inspiration and, most recently, the endorsement of an illustrated children’s version of his book ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’ enlivened the spirits of many little angels.
He showed everyone the incredible strength of human spirit and invigorated all those who suffered from adversity.
Upon becoming the first Black and democratically elected President of South Africa, he said: ‘The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us. We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.’
The path of Mr. Mandela is truly the path of equality and freedom. He is an example of justice for the entire world.
The man lives no more, yet his legacy lives on. It is in us now to keep his path brightened with the message he has left behind.