In a time when a lot of things seem wrong with the world — Zimmerman vs. Martin, Canadian senator deception, elementary school shootings, conflicts in Syria, another dreadful Blue Jays season (which may not compare but it’s still painful) — it’s challenging to find some optimism. Where does one look to find the silver lining?
One place to start is to look at popular figures who exemplify dignity and nobility. And one name comes to mind quite quickly — Nelson Mandela.
At the tender age of 95, Mandela is someone we have been hearing about lately in the news. Sadly, it is due to the increasing aliments he has been experiencing. However, it has also revived conversation about the incredible history surrounding his life.
CBC’s website offers a great timeline of the man many call Madiba. It gives an interactive look at his upbringing, political involvement, prison life, and key moments in South Africa’s history that he produced. It is a great resource for those who are unfamiliar about his life.
Commonly known as the “father of democracy,” Mandela’s efforts offered hope to many South Africans — both black and white. People looked at him with the deepest of admiration because he was a leader who wanted equality for all. He wanted to see not only his country, but a world full of fairness.
This was notably apparent at the 1995 World Rugby Cup, which was held in the country of which he became president a year prior. As the first black South African president, Mandela created a moment that shocked the world. And all this was done with a simple team jersey.
Rugby was the white man’s game in South Africa. The uniform of the national Springbok team was seen as a symbol of apartheid. For that, many black South Africans despised the sport of rugby.
But when Mandela walked onto the field bearing the green jersey before the final game of Springbok VS New Zealand, it signified something that was felt around the country: unity.
This historic moment was solidified when Springbok came out of the game victorious and as Mandela presented the trophy to the team, the crowd — with an outstanding majority of white spectators — in perfect unison chanted “Nelson, Nelson, Nelson!”
This is not the pinnacle moment of Mandela’s celebrated history, but it proved that the goal of democracy was obtainable – that terrible circumstances that taunted South Africa’s past could be forgotten, even just for a moment, and peace could be achieved.
Today, the African National Congress, which Mandela led during his one term of presidency, is said to be eroding. An article by Jonny Steinberg explains that the “Mandela way” is slowly wearing away due to the continued decades of political and racial problems.
But, that is the reality of our world. We are fluid, ever changing, and often unstable.
Maybe that means that we are ineligible for another Mandela to come upon us: a person who can exemplify strength in times of struggle, hope in times of fear, and freedom for the suppressed.
Our present can be a discouraging time but Mandela has taught us that if we have the endurance our future can be preserved.