Honor Mandela’s life by reading his story in his words

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

― Nelson Mandela,
Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

More than a television interview, more than a movie, more than magazine article, an autobiography or memoir creates a connection with the reader that is not unlike friendship.

I remember weeping when I finished reading Stephen B. Oates “With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln.” Of course I knew Lincoln’s fate, but after traveling through the ups and downs of his life with him, I was sorry to see him die.

I feel that way today about Nelson Mandela.

I read his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” a decade ago. I remember the middle bogged down with political explanation and commentary, but the spirit of the man shined through his narrative. He became my friend. His book ended hopefully, of course, as Mandela was still alive sharing his message of justice and reconciliation.

But when I heard he died today, I was sad. He deserved his 95 years of life, particularly after 27 years were stolen from him when he was jailed for protesting apartheid in South Africa. I had the honor of visiting his homes during a visit to Johannesburg in 2004. One of his homes in Soweto, a poor black suburb of Johannesburg, had been made into a museum; he resided at the other.

His story is amazing, and his autobiography is worth immersing yourself.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

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