On Thursday night, I found out that Nelson Mandela died.
When I found out I just stood there for a moment feeling like I lost something but I didn’t know what. There was nothing immediately tangible about my life that changed or is going to change because of his death but I definitely felt like the value the world has decreased. The sense of loss I felt compelled me to define what I lost, and find out more about this colossal man from Africa.
I listed a few of his accomplishments here:
- Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918
- Mandela had a royal upbringing being a son of a tribal chief in Transkei, one of the future “Bantustans”.
- In April 20, 1964 he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment for leading a campaign of sabotage against the government.
- It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo.
- When Nelson turned 70 he was the most famous political prisoner.
- He was released from prison on February 11, 1990.
- He served as President of the African National Congress from 1991 to 1997.
- In 1993 he received the Noble Peace Prize.
- He was president of South Africa from 1994 – 1999.
- He’s often described as a “father of a nation”.
The more I learned about his life the more I realized how much this world will miss him. Much like when my grandfather died, I didn’t miss him until 2 days after he died when we were driving to Atlanta to lay him to rest. I had come to an understanding that I would never hear his voice again, never see his face, he would not ever see my children or me with a wife. All my successes in life could not be shared with the most important person in my life. So, appreciate your loved ones for the wisdom they share. When they are gone, their memories will remind you of each lesson they granted you. Nelson Mandela started out as a boxer and ended up a leader of a country. I guess being a boxer taught him how to fight literally and figuratively. As a young black man you will have to face and navigate your own challenges with the same calculated deliberate movements. Much like other black leaders, like President Barack Obama and Reverend Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. you will face and endure discrimination, at some moments it will be obvious but most times it will be an underlying opposition. As a black man you will have to be 3 times better to compete in a subjective world where certain biases are not in your favor. You have to be more prepared, more determined, and always ready. You will receive an extra helping of scrutiny and criticism at every turn. I wish I could say something softer, nicer to make you feel comfortable but this is the world we live in. It doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed, it means that you must be better than the pack. You can change the world by just trying to make a difference. To even comprehend what Nelson Mandela was to the world, you have to recognize the world for what it is and make it better. Nelson Mandela had to surmount huge obstacles in a world that continuously opposed him. He will always be an icon of leadership and hope, a representative of peace to the entire world.
There’s redemption in death that all your loved ones endure. When the people die, they take all the moments with them. All the possibilities of meeting Mandela are gone, of shaking his hand… gone, seeing him smile…gone, hearing his voice…gone, laughing with him…gone, being in his presence…impossible. The true appreciation of a man usually comes in the memories that he leaves behind. The sorrow comes when you learn what you’ve lost. It comes when you no longer have the teacher guiding you, the example to follow. Mandela’s death leaves the world with less. Nelson’s life will forever remain as a symbol of freedom and democracy. A midst all his challenges he remained resilient and focused in his beliefs and goals. His example as a leader is impeccable, he’s a leader among leaders. I suggest you read about Mandela, go to see the movies about him. Nelson Mandela’s life’s work will always remain as a benchmark to align your goals.
Madiba will always be a beacon for leaders that follow him.
“Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
Martin Luther King