Nelson Mandela epitomizes the words "freedom fighter", moving South Africa from decades of an apartheid system to a society where blacks were free. Under South Africa's apartheid, blacks were uneducated, could not own land and were forced to carry passes classifying them and barring them from many public facilities. His political opposition movement was silenced, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
In his book, Long walk to freedom, Mandela talked about being born in rural South Africa with a hunger to be free. As he grew, the hunger for his own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of his people.
Mandela dedicated his life to freeing all blacks in South Africa. The journey that drove him from a law-abiding attorney, to armed struggle, to man on the run, and finally prisoner for 27 years.
There are many words that can be used to describe Nelson Mandela, but the one characteristic that stands out for me is fortitude. In sacrifice of all else, Mandela remained committed to liberate, not only the oppressed blacks, but the oppressor. In his words "The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity."
Mandela, of course, went on to become the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994. The noble man he was, dismantled the apartheid system without any retribution, and stepped away from power after serving only one term in office.
In recognizing that everything we do is a journey, he said "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view from the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."
Following his death yesterday (5th December 2013), the walk continues for the millions of people he has inspired around the world. It's rather ironic that I just completed reading his book "Long walk to freedom" and am happy to announce that I too am inspired by his story.