leader I admire

Nelson Mandela’s most private moment is watching the sun set with the music of Handel playing in the background. Locked up in his cell during daylight hours, deprived of music, such simple pleasures that most of us took for granted were denied to him for decades while imprisoned off Cape Town. Nelson Mandela is a man who has suffered from great injustice, but rose above it to continue working towards achieving the goal of a lifetime. He never stopped believing in his country and fought relentlessly for the peaceful termination of the Apartheid regime, and for establishing the foundations for a new, democratic South Africa. In 1993 he was awarded the Novel Peace Prize for his fight against racial oppression. This is the reason why Nelson Mandela is a political leader I greatly admire. In my opinion, Mandela embodies ideals such as faith, courage, perseverance and the belief in the strength, and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.

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Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Transkei, South Africa. He entered politics while in college, and joined the African National Congress in 1943. He was elected President of the African National Congress, a political body whose aim was to increase the rights of the black community. His struggle against the apartheid resulted in his conviction for crimes such as sabotage; he spent 27 years in prison, and was released in 1990. In 1994 Mandela was elected President of South Africa after the first multiracial elections ever held in this country, and the first huge step towards democratization. In his inauguration speech he said: “We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.” (Negotiating Peace, Nelson Mandela Organization).

The improvements that South Africa has seen since his release from prison in the early ’90s are overwhelming. The institutionalized apartheid regime was dismantled, a constitution was ratified in 1996, and a change in popular mentality has definitely occurred. In addition, Mandela and his party, the African National Congress have militated for improving the quality of life among black citizens, and have established the Committee for Truth and Reconciliation whose aim was to investigate the crimes of the apartheid. Mandela’s term in office ended in 1999 but the fact that he is no longer President of South Africa does not mean he is no longer involved in the affairs of his country. He decided not to run for a second term, and in 2004 retired from public life mostly because of health problems. He set up three foundations bearing his name: The Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation (Ibid). Since stepping down as president in 1999, Nelson Mandela has become South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, has campaigned against HIV / AIDS and secured his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup (BBC Profile). He has also been involved in peace efforts in other regions of the world.

Aside from newspaper and journal articles, as well as websites on the life of Nelson Mandela, I have watched a number of interesting documentaries. However, I believe the most striking was called “Frontline: The long walk of Nelson Mandela.” This documentary allowed the viewer to get a more profound understanding of the hardships that Mandela was faced with all his life. Also, this documentary depicted his personal life and painted a more vivid picture of the man who would change the destiny of South Africa. This documentary made me realize what a complex individual he is, and what fascinating stories he still has to share with the world. If I was given the chance to have a conversation with Nelson Mandela, I would ask him about his struggle to survive the confinement which lasted almost 28 years. From what I have read and seen in several documentaries on his life and political career, his lack of bitterness concerning that era is truly remarkable. He himself has said that perhaps he would have harbored bitterness and negativity had he not had a “job to do.”

Mandela once said, “The struggle is my life.” Upon his conviction, Nelson Mandela gave a final statement which has been evoked on countless occasions, and has represented a true motto of the fight against the apartheid in South Africa, and racial segregation in general: “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 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.” Nelson Mandela has spent his entire life as an advocate of racial equality and freedom, be it of mind, speech or assembly. Despite the fact that he is no longer President of South Africa, he is still leading the battle against racial discrimination with vigor and resilience after spending nearly three decades behind bars. He has sacrificed his youth for his country, and the ideals he believed in. Moreover, he is a true inspiration not only to everyone who shares his fight and goal, but also to those who faced with difficulty, stay strong and uphold their beliefs.

Profile of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.” African National Congress. http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.html

Nelson Mandela.” BBC Profiles. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1454208.stm

Negotiating Peace.” Nelson Mandela Organization. http://www.nelsonmandela.org/index.php/memory/views/biography/#negotiatingpeace

The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela.” Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/mandela/etc./tapes.html