On December 5, 2013, the news of Nelson Mandela’s death popped up on my screen. I felt a rush of sorrow and was taken aback by the strength of my emotions. It was as if someone close to me had died. And though he was 95 at the time, I was still shocked by his death. His larger-than-life persona made it seem as if he would always be there to learn from and to look up to.
As I took in the loss of my hero, I was extremely grateful for a bucket-list trip I had taken to South Africa earlier that year. My friends and I had carved out time to go to Robben Island, one of the prisons where Mandela was held captive. Unfortunately, the weather was stormy, and the boats weren’t going out that day. I was disappointed, but in an interesting twist of fate, we stumbled upon the District Six Museum, which commemorates a vibrant multicultural neighborhood destroyed under apartheid and educates visitors on, among other things, the difference Nelson Mandela made.
Nelson Mandela lived a life like no other. From being imprisoned for 27 years for his efforts to end apartheid, to becoming the first black president of South Africa, to continuing to fight for the world’s most vulnerable people well into his 90s, he was a man who never really retired from his life’s mission. Perhaps what always strikes me most is how he succeeded in bringing others along on the ride as, among Nelson Mandela’s many talents, he was one of the greatest communicators of our time.
His wisdom and teachings live on today – to be learned from and to aspire to. Among his quotes that most inspire me:
- “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
- “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
- “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
- “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Nelson Mandela, with his inimitable spirit, used the power of communication to improve the lives of millions, including to raise the status of women. Today would have been his 100th birthday. In his honor, maybe we can all strive to live up to his ideal: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”