Nelson Mandela’s death at age 95 on December 5 might not have come as a shock, but this hasn’t lessened the mourning happening around the world.
Mandela shaped a nation and brought people together all over the world, through their united compassion.
He inspired those who feared that their lives were inconsequential and who were shamefully treated as though they are less important.
He also fostered love and humanity within the hearts and minds of those who could help him on his journey to end racism, poverty and inequality everywhere.
Although I was only a young child, I vividly remember his long-awaited release from prison. The image of him standing proud and free is etched in my memory—but, even in my youth, I could tell, for this determined man, his mission had only begun.
I also remember feeling horrified that this type of injustice could actually occur in the world that my naively, idealistic soul inhabited. It was the first time I noticed the level of inequality surrounding me, in the great land of the brave and the “free.”
I recall feeling hopeful that people of importance, such as Mandela and his supporters, cared about instigating a positive and necessary change. I felt empowered.
I wasn’t the only one, of course, who garnered strength and hope from this great man.
President Obama spoke on the death of Mandela, saying, “I’m one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action—the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics—was a protest against apartheid.”
The President said, Nelson Mandela’s journey from a prisoner to President, embodied the promise that human beings, and countries, can change for the better, and asks that we pause and give thanks for the fact that Mandela lived—a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
Watch President Obama’s entire speech here:
Mandela’s legacy will continue to encourage us to live for our deepest held beliefs and convictions, rather than what’s expected or easy.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum