Column: Nelson Mandela ‘the ultimate public servant’

December 5, 2013
LEON NEAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES - Former South African president Nelson Mandela waves to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street, in central London, for a meeting with the British Prime Minister in 2007.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street  in London for a meeting with the British prime minister in 2007. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Nelson Mandela, a beloved figure throughout the world who became South Africa’s first black president after serving a long prison term for his role as an anti-apartheid revolutionary, died Thursday at age 95, according to officials from that country.

Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson, who covered South Africa for the Wall Street Journal in 1986 and had numerous encounters with Mandela in the 1990s and beyond, shared his impressions of the iconic leader in a June column titled “Lessons from the ultimate public servant: Nelson Mandela.

Below is an excerpt from that article:

It’s a too-familiar story: Wayward politicians violate the public trust and find themselves behind bars.

But lately I’ve been thinking about a man whose service and leadership were partially forged in prison, long before he held elective office — Nelson Mandela, the ultimate public servant.

And as his long life nears its end — he is in critical condition at a Pretoria hospital — his leadership holds many lessons for those in U.S. federal service.

I feel a personal connection to Mandela, as do probably the thousands of people who have met him. I began covering South Africa for the Wall Street Journal in 1986, when the government was an oppressive, violent, white racist regime. I later had numerous encounters with Mandela, from the time he was released from prison in 1990 to his election and inauguration in 1994 and beyond.

I’ve written about many public officials over the years. None can stand up to Mandela. What stands out most about him is his sense of principle.

FULL ARTICLE: Lessons from the ultimate public servant: Nelson Mandela

Also: The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan talks about the life and legacy of  President Nelson Mandela:

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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