Mandeal will be missed but his legacy will forever live on.New Haven is a long way from Pretoria, but that didn’t matter to my classmates and me a quarter of a century ago.
We were camping out in front of Yale’s administration building, in a plywood “shanty-town” erected to dramatize our opposition to apartheid. Like thousands of other students across the country, we demanded that our university divest from companies doing business in South Africa. And we joined a chorus around the world in giving voice to our most fervent wish: to free Nelson Mandela.President Mandela’s death last week brought that memory vividly to mind. The songs and stories of his courage in the face of evil -- and his decision to pursue reconciliation rather than revenge -- inspire me anew.
As South Africa marks a National Day of Prayer and Reflection, I remember the trip my mother and I made to that country in 2011. From my Cape Town journal:
We visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars. His tiny cell still holds a thin mat, a small wooden table, a tin cup and plate. A window casts a small square of light onto the bare floor.
On the other side of the window lies a stone courtyard. Here the future president tended a garden -- and buried his memoir. Flowers grow from the spot where Mandela began his “Long Walk to Freedom.”
We paused at a limestone quarry. Mandela -- “Madiba,” as many South Africans affectionately call him, or “Tata” (Xhosa for father) -- had toiled here too, swinging a pickaxe without protection from the heat, the cold, or the blinding sun. The glare from the white rock marred his eyesight but not his vision.
The man one of his successors would call "South Africa's greatest son" eventually emerged from captivity and liberated the nation that had imprisoned him. Today we are left not only to celebrate his life but also to sustain his legacy.
“There is no passion to be found playing small,” Nelson Mandela said, or “in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” No one could have put -- or proved -- that point any better.
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