Yes, he was profoundly great. But no matter how great his words–and his deeds–one cannot see Mandela without looking in reverse perspective. You have to look at his impact on the people around him … and around the whole world.
He not only inspired people of every continent to protest the inhumanity of apartheid, Mandela led the fight to defeat one of the richest, most powerful adversaries on the planet.
Even in the oil city, Houston, with tight alliances to South Africa, he inspired everyday people to come out and march against oppression and slavery. Those of us who took part will never be the same.
In the same way he inspired me and so many of us to do something outside of ourselves–to work non-stop against apartheid, he continues to inspire me to achieve my personal best AND to reach out to create a better planet. You just cannot see him without seeing all that we do. We’re like his shadows, millions of us.
We even sang together–everyone. Didn’t matter if you thought you could sing. Here’s “Mandela” from the picket in London, sung by the City Group Singers in memory of both Rolihlahla and the group leader, Ken Bodden who passed in October. .
A man of peace, Mandela also stood up and took up arms against a government that shot at peaceful protests, at children in Soweto. Like American rebel leaders Washington and Jefferson, he was a genius. Mandela used his skills in law and ongoing personal studies to outfox the enemy. He inspired US Senators, British unemployed, college students, housewives, plumbers and priests to:
Yes, to stand up in ways we had never imagined. Many protesters went to jail–even people who had never jaywalked in their lives. You cannot see Mandela, “Madiba,” without seeing all of us. He became a part of the Goodness that united this world to defeat the horror of apartheid. And to win the peace.
So the people call him “Madiba.” But to me, he will always be the rebel. He did not die yesterday, really. He lives in every good deed he continues to inspire.