Nelson Mandela RIP: a sad goodbye to the power of his peaceful words

small__2616534609Today we have had to say goodbye to one of the world’s greatest statesmen, and someone who – despite lengthy imprisonment – believed that talking and using words were what would lead to solutions of national and international problems.

I have always admired the calm, considered nature of his speeches and his choice of words that related – gently – to a peaceful way forward across not only South Africa, his nation, but worldwide.

I just wish that leaders in other cultures would take heed and learn from Mandela’s essentially peace-based words and strivings to sort out the hideous mess in which the world often finds itself.

Here is a short selection of some of my favourite passages from Mandela’s speeches and statements…

On the election of US President Obama:

There is a special excitement on our continent today, Mister President, in the knowledge that you have such strong personal ties with Africa. We share in that excitement and pride.

We are aware that the expectations of what your Presidency will achieve are high and that the demands on you will be great. We therefore once more wish you and your family strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead.

You will always be in our affection as a young man who dared to dream and to pursue that dream.

A prophetic warning after 9/11:

We need wise leadership and statesmanship in this period of looming crisis. The actions taken should not deepen tensions and further divide the world for it is in those circumstances of strife and division that terrorism finds fertile ground. The recent history of our own country has taught that negotiation is the surest means of finding lasting solutions to even the most seemingly intractable political problems.

From the dock at his trial in Rivonia, 1964:

Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. [someone coughs] During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people.

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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

At the British Red Cross Humanity lecture, 2003

HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on families, communities, societies and economies. Decades have been chopped from life expectancy and young child mortality is expected to more than double in the most severely affected countries of Africa. AIDS is clearly a disaster, effectively wiping out the development gains of the past decades and sabotaging the future.

It is no less than a war, a world war that affects all of us ultimately. The developing world is, as in so many other cases, suffering the worst while having the least resources to deal with the threat. Once more, an organisation like the International Red Cross and its national chapters can play a huge role in mobilising world opinion and resources to help combat this terrible and threatening scourge.

We are in this modern globalised world each the keeper of our brother and sister. We have too often failed that moral calling. The International Red Cross had been both our conscience and the source of redeeming us in this regard.

I thank you for that in my personal capacity and from my personal experience together with my fellow political prisoners. I am certain that a world wishing for the better of our human nature to triumph and prevail, thanks you as much.

May you see this third century in which you operate, truly becoming the one in which all human beings across the globe will at last enjoy a better life.

At Live 8, 2005:

In a few days time the leaders of the G8 nations will meet in Scotland. They will face perhaps the most critical question that our world has had to face – how do we remove the face of poverty from our world.

So much of our common future will depend on the actions and plans of these leaders. They have a historical opportunity to open the door to hope and the possibility of a better future for all. History and the generations to come will judge our leaders by the decisions they make in the coming weeks.

I say to all those leaders: do not look the other way; do not hesitate. It is easy to make promises but never go to action.

We ask our leaders to demonstrate their commitment and not engage with hollow promises. We want action. It is within your power to prevent a genocide against humanity. We stand tall as we await your direction.

We thank you for coming here today and we thank the millions of people around the world supporting these efforts. Today should not be the only time we rally in support of eradication of poverty. This should be an ongoing effort. Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.

What a wonderful man. It breaks my heart that he has gone. But we must learn from the wise words he has spoken and written.

R.I.P. Madiba. xx

photo credit: p_c_w via photopin cc

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