Barack Obama’s Speech: Analysis
Nelson Mandela memorial service Photos: Nelson Mandela memorial service Obama shakes Raul Castro’s hand Obama, Bush families arrive in Johannesburg Fellow Mandela prisoner praises rain Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement a movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial Justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would like Lincoln hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.
Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power. Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling nd serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.
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But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying. ” It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection, because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carrie, that we loved him so.
He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not Just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well. Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.
Ban Ki-Moon remembers Mandela lessons Mandela memorial: World leader montage Certainly he hared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments a desire to fght the system that imprisoned my people. ” But like other early giants of the ANC the Sisulus and Tambos Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fght into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “l have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial.
I’ve 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. ” Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but lso his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.
And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his. Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the apartheid egime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts. ” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.
And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African. Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa Ubuntu – that escribes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell.
But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his Jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – hat revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not Just the prisoner, but the Jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.