The Lessons of Nelson Mandela (Dec. 11, 2013)

The recent passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela provides us with an opportunity to reflect on powerful lessons about life, humanity, forgiveness and transcending the pettiness of politics.

Nelson Mandela’s example is one that all Americans, particularly our elected leaders, should keep in mind during these difficult and exceptionally divisive times in our nation’s history.

Mandela spent over 27 years in prison, initially in a tiny cell by himself on the legendary Robben Island. This experience alone is one that few can comprehend.

After Mandela was released, rather than seeking vengeance and further divisiveness, he emerged from prison with a goal to bring all the people of South Africa together and serve as an advocate of racial reconciliation. He negotiated with South African President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multi-racial elections which led to his election as South Africa’s first black President.

As President, he formed a Government of National Unity in which he invited several other political parties to join the cabinet.

Mandela put aside his own personal sacrifices, and he declined to pursue power for its own sake. He put the people of South Africa, both black and white, ahead of himself. Nelson Mandela provided leadership instead of petty politics. He offered a lesson in hope and unity that continues to inspire the entire world.

Let us hope that our leaders from both major parties reflect on the lessons of Nelson Mandela and mind his example in order to transcend the petty politics that grips our great nation today. I hope you agree.

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