We knew this day would come but we did not want it to be so. We wanted Nelson Mandela to live forever.
The man South Africans called Madiba, the man who endured so much for equality died Thursday at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela lived a life of impact. He was a world leader with a regal bearing and a ready smile. He loved people and was fearless in his fight for justice and equality.
Mandela’s fight against apartheid cost him 27 years in prison. He would have stayed longer if necessary. He spoke these words about his struggle: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Apartheid — a form of legal segregation and brutal racism — gripped South Africa for decades despite the fact that black South Africans greatly outnumbered white South Africans.
Mandela knew, in the words of Frederick Douglass, that power concedes nothing without a demand. Thousands of South Africans were murdered during the country’s radical transformation. Before, during and after his grueling time in prison Mandela fought boldly not only to end apartheid but to extend an olive branch to his oppressors. When the first free elections were held in 1994, black South Africans waited in long lines for hours to elect Mandela president of their divided country.
Mandela was the right man for such a time, providing the leadership needed for healing to take place. When he and former President F.W. de Klerk joined together in unity after Mandela’s victory, both men showed incredible courage. In doing so, good triumphed over evil and love triumphed over hate; not just for the people of South Africa but for people everywhere.