Today Nelson Mandela passed away. The former South African President and long imprisoned anti-apartheid activist finally succumbed to a battle with lung infection at the age of 95.
Although I avoid writing about politics these days, I’m breaking my protocol to share a few thoughts on the passing of this extraordinary man. My travels through Africa in ’93 and ’95 gave me the opportunity to speak with many South Africans, including church and community leaders and also see the way South Africa’s transformation gave hope to those in other African nations.
It was an amazing time.
Of course, now that Mandela has passed, a lot will be written and said; about the way he fought for freedom as a young man, how he wound up in prison, his long incarceration and his rise to the Presidency. Opinions from those who knew Mandela, those saw first hand the transformation of South Africa and those who drew inspiration from his legacy will fill the 24/7 news cycle for weeks to come.
And, there’s even an upcoming feature film, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which will surely gather lots of critical and box-office attention.
We so often talk about “leadership.” But, very few people change the world the way Mandela did. His achievements transcended politics – it wasn’t just about changing who benefitted from a historical mistake, but getting rid of the mistake completely. His leadership carried with it a moral, not just a numerical, authority. The world was different – and better – because he lived.