When I was twelve I read ‘A Long Walk to Freedom’ and I remember the rush of excitement that came with it. Reading the book the one thing that stuck out to me was how an ordinary boy from the Transkei worked his way up to become a revolutionary leader. His aspiration was not to become a great leader but his aspiration was to be a free man, his aspiration was for him to see his people being treated like equals, for his people to stop being treated like inept human beings. This is what I found striking, that his goal or ambition was not solely centred on him but it revolved around his people and his nation.
To me Nelson Mandela meant courage. The courage to stand up in court and call the very people who are sentencing you to prison incorrect and unjust. The courage to lift your head and speak the truth regardless of the consequences. The reason Nelson Mandela is a revered leader held in high esteem is because of the fact that he spoke hard truths and was not apologetic about it. For this he was respected even by those who did not like him because he spoke the truth and spoke his mind all the time. When you become someone who is not afraid to say what needs to be said and a person who is willing to step up when others won’t you gain the respect of your friends and foes.
To me Nelson Mandela meant hope. During Apartheid he was the candle that kept burning through the night for all the black South Africans. His strength gave them hope, his tenacity was their light at the end of the tunnel. Mandela believed in his cause that regardless of how long or hard it got he did not give up and when others around him began to lose hope he encouraged them and became their strength. But for me Nelson Mandela means that there is still hope for Africa, if a man with so much integrity and vision came from Africa then my continent can still yet bear more inspirational leaders like Nelson Mandela.
To me Nelson Mandela meant purpose. Nelson Mandela lived for a dream bigger than himself and his family. His dream was then what others would have called building castles in the air. Black emancipation during his time was not something people deemed possible but that did not stop him from pursuing it. His purpose in life was bigger than becoming a lawyer and providing for his people back home in the village. With courage, hope, determination and support he managed to achieve the unimaginable. Freedom, equality and peace. I learnt from him not to sell myself short and to live a life with a purpose that is greater than I.
To me Nelson Mandela meant unity. In life there are people who have the ability to bring people together and rally behind a common cause. Nelson Mandela was one of those people, he brought all South Africans together regardless of their tribe. Zulu, Xhosa, Spedi, Shangani, to fight against white domination. He understood the power behind standing as one and from him I learnt that no man is an island and if Africa is going to rise then it will take the cumulative effort of myself and my fellow Africans.
Tata Mandela was so many things to different people. An icon to the world, a father to a nation, a husband, a symbol of hope for many, a teacher, an advisor, a friend and a fighter. To me Nelson Mandela was a living example of how all men should strive to be. Like all of us he was from perfect albeit he was a man of strong principles who always put others before himself and this is what I will take away from his legacy. To become a great leader you must be become a great servant of your people.