It is a sad day. It is a day I didn’t want to come. I wanted Nelson Mandela to live forever.
I became familiar with him and his anti-apartheid struggles when I taught in the 1980’s. As a geography teacher, I taught some about latitude and longitude, but it was always the people (and the foods) that I emphasized. In 1987, the movie, MANDELA, was broadcast on television. Starring Danny Glover as Mandela, it was great! I taped it and showed it to my classes when we studied South Africa. From then on, Mandela was my hero.
When he was released from prison after 27 years, I was cheered. When apartheid was dismantled, I was heartened. When he became the country’s first black president, I was amazed. When he showed such integrity and forgiveness to the whites who had harmed him and his fellow people, I learned that goodness and power could reside in one person. He not only spoke of peace and equality, he put his words into action.
President Barack Obama spoke about this today: “We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” Obama said. “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
I knew that it was time for Mandela to make his final journey. He was ill and tired. A 45-year-old South African housewife expressed my emotions exactly.”I have mixed feelings. I am happy that he is resting but I am also sad to see him go,” Molebogeng Ntheledi was quoted as saying.
Goodbye, Mr. Mandela. May you rest in peace. May the lessons you taught the world never be forgotten.