Nelson Mandela: As great a person as we’ll ever see. Imprisoned 27 years, 18 of them in a small cell on an island where he was forced to do hard labor — all for advocating (as he said at his sentencing for treason) “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
The Post’s obit was written in the main by my colleague and friend Lynne Duke, who passed away earlier this year.
“To a country torn apart by racial divisions, Mr. Mandela became its most potent symbol of national unity, using the power of forgiveness and reconciliation to heal deep-rooted wounds and usher in a new era of peace after decades of conflict between blacks and whites. To a continent rife with leaders who cling to power for life, Mr. Mandela became a role model for democracy, stepping down from the presidency after one term and holding out the promise of a new Africa.
“And to a world roiled by war, poverty and oppression, Mr. Mandela became its conscience, fighting to overcome some of its most vexing problems. He was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent 27 years in prison as part of his lifelong struggle against racial oppression.”
Here’s the beginning of his inaugural speech in 1994:
“Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world,confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.
“Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.
“Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all….”
It’s not a long speech, and it’s all good.
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”