Today, we celebrate Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the legacy of a man who gave hope to millions of Africans both young and old, and inspired millions elsewhere. Though Madiba (his tribal nickname) can never be replaced, we take comfort and get inspiration through some of the lessons he taught us:
“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.”
Mandela faced brutal discrimination, inequality and racism; most of us can’t begin to understand the struggles he faced. After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, his resolve was not broken. Mandela had the grace to forgive and channeled his energy into providing a better tomorrow for South Africans — building a nation of unity and reconciliation.
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur”
To me, Mandela is arguably the greatest and most inspirational statesman of the 20th century. At times he has served as my moral compass—through his activism against social injustice around the world, Madiba continues to represent a foundation upon which leaders and individuals alike can model their lives.
“Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Madiba is an icon, despite his insistence against such a label. He earned his place in history through his actions, but his place in our hearts is the product of his imperfections. He never sought to be more than man, nor pretend that saving South Africa from itself was his destiny. Instead, his warmth, charisma and humor, despite the tragedies he endured, mistakes he made, and flaws he often admitted he had; made him someone we will continue to learn from.
“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.”
In his life, Nelson Mandela followed three rules: free yourself, free others and serve every day. From the Nelson Mandela Foundation, to many other causes and campaigns, Madiba ensured that he left footprints in the lives of people in need around the world.
Today as we celebrate International Mandela Day, we should remember and be glad that he lived among us, that he taught us, and that he loved us all. We should celebrate Mandela not only through his accomplishments, but with the values he stood for – democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation and respect. These ideals which he upheld throughout his life, we must attempt to do justice. Every one of us must passionately act on behalf of the things we hold most dear, and make every day worthy of a Mandela Day.
Liberator and president to many, but hero to more, we thank you Madiba, and will strive to ensure your struggles were not in vain.
Hamba Kahle Madiba