Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa has died.
Like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela is one of those very rare individuals who succeeded in greatly expanding the freedom of the people that he set out to free from brutal oppression.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his life work in ending apartheid in 1993, and while there are countless examples of his deep embodiment of living and being love, becoming friends his one time jail guard/oppressor is perhaps the most notable.
Mandela was a model of fearlessness and peaceful dissidence during his fight against apartheid. For decades, the regime that governed South Africa implemented a number of laws that denied black South Africans basic citizenship rights. This set of laws institutionalized discrimination in South Africa against the black majority population and Black South Africans were relegated to second-class status. And in order to maintain this caste system, the government never hesitated to silence its opponents. In fact, it dispensed harsh treatment to intimidate its critics. It was during this era where political persecution was de rigeur that Mandela began to emerge as one of the leading opponents of the apartheid regime. Although he was fully aware of the tremendous danger that he would face by challenging the system, he boldly led the charge against those discriminatory laws.
We are living in a world where the strong tend to dominate the weak, and in our modern era, there have been only three individuals who succeeded in freeing their people from subjugation without engaging in an armed revolution: Gandhi in India, King in the U.S., and Mandela in South Africa.
Mandela, King and Gandhi managed to do the unthinkable: They succeeded against more powerful adversaries because they knew that they were fighting for a cause that was much bigger than they were. The willingness of these leaders to die for their cause (though Mandela, unlike the other two, did not) helped explain why they could not be cowed even in the face of mortal threats. The systems that all three men were endeavoring to change crumbled under the weight of their own moral bankruptcy. Owing to their monumental achievements, these three leaders’ mark on history will be indelible.
May Nelson Mandela peacefully transition out of this life and into the next, and take his resting place in history next to MLK and Gandhi.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela