Haroon Atcha // Political Columnist
At 95 years of age, Mr. Mandela left this world in better condition than he found it. Instrumental in dismantling Apartheid, institutionalized segregation in South Africa, Nelson Mandela epitomized the values of sacrifice and leadership. With the help of others including Rev. Desmond Tutu, he guided his country to a period of reconciliation and acceptance at a time when ruthless violence would have been an all too easy alternative. This man is a role model. Not because he was perfect, but rather, in spite of his imperfections.
Bravery is a word you may have heard used to describe Mr. Mandela and in this instance it’s hard to disagree. Most men faced with the possibility of being sentenced to death would humble themselves in front of a judge, regardless of how corrupt a regime that judge may serve.
Mr. Mandela entertained no such idea. Appearing in front of the court in traditional garb, he gave a 4 hour speech condemning the inhumanity of apartheid. For this, and many other offenses, he spent 27 years in prison. Even prison was not enough to temper his revolutionary zeal however. During his time at Robben Island, Mr. Mandela openly defied apartheid, writing letters to powerful figures around the world, championing the cause of equality. These are the actions of a brave man; a man who valued his convictions over his own life. Such a life does not come without sacrifice however.
The pain of being imprisoned for nearly three decades would be enough to drive most of us to madness. Mr. Mandela however bore another burden: his family. His time in prison isolated him from his family as he watched his children grow up from the inside of a jail cell. His personal relationships too took a back seat to diplomacy. In his struggles we see a man who inspired a nation and the world at the expense of his own happiness.
It’s often easy to forget how taxing a position of power can be. When the hopes of a nation rest on your shoulders, you cease to be a man allowed to make mistakes. Instead, you become an image to aspire to. Your every action is scrutinized and every word spoken becomes infused with meaning. Despite this immense load, Nelson Mandela sacrificed for his country and performed with poise. He served as a role model and continues to do so.
Difficult though it may be, the world will move on, aching from this loss. Though we mourn the passing of a great man, we should rest assured with the knowledge that if anyone has earned rest, he has. A man that gave himself wholly to the cause of equality, Nelson Mandela will not be forgotten. Rest in peace Madiba.