SONOMA – Long after his death in 2013, Nelson Mandela will remain a world leadership icon.
The whole world mourned when he died. The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist, after a life of struggle, served as the first president of a democratic South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering reconciliation and emancipation, which saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
He didn’t have long after his 27 year imprisonment on Robben Island remain long but in his short span as president he became a leader of leaders.
He was in gaol for nearly a quarter of his life and he was a controversial figure for nearly all his life.
While originally denounced as a communist terrorist, he was to gain international acclaim for his activism, his courage, his compassion and his leadership.
In 2009, US president Barrack Obama said, “I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set.”
As we near the sixth anniversary of his death, I would like to mention some of the lessons we learned from him.
He believed in the power of education.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” he said. This strikes home. Papua New Guinea will never make any difference to the world on a global scale if we produce more illiterates in our nation.
Money and wealth are not power; knowledge gained through education is power. We must use the power of education to safely navigate the destiny of this nation. As I have written before, it’s time to push PNG literacy and literature on a national scale.
He started small but finished big.
It is recorded that Nelson Mandela first worked as a security guard in a mining company before seeking an education and becoming a lawyer. And then spending 27 years outside the community in gaol.
He showed that it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters. Few people leap straight to the top. Mandela would say, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” So it’s fine where you are now. Start from here. History shows us that so many people who made a difference had a humble beginning.
He had courage and determination.
This is the most important lesson I have learned from the life of Mandela. His courage never died. It’s amazing how he fought racism and apartheid and the regime that promoted them. His silent life in the prison became a megaphone that shouted to the world that we are created equal and nobody is born superior.
Mandela was imprisoned but his mind was always free. And his determination was extraordinary. He had said in 1952. when he was 34, that “one day I will be the first black president of Africa.” That he became and in doing so annihilated the evil spirit of segregation.
He held no grudges.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom,” Mandela wrote, “I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” He was wise beyond most of us in being able to let go of the past and live the present because the present will navigate the future.