The growing terrorism, hate crimes, mob lynching, and numerous cases regarding discrimination are not unfamiliar to anyone. But these social evils aren’t accepted by all of us. Many famous personalities have graced this materialistic world but one name whose wisdom, generosity and rationalism can’t be ignored and is simply irreplaceable is Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s former president who spent 27 years in prison and emerged to lead the country out of decades of apartheid. His wisdom, work, and legacy touched many members of Northeastern University’s community.
From Mandela, Americans grasped the essence of radical leadership: the necessity to stand one’s ground—as when he refused to be released from prison, the duty to negotiate with one’s enemy—as when he met with ‘the Boers’, the perils and opportunities of governance; the hardships of personal deprivation and the virtues of self-discipline, suffering, and forgiveness; the need to have confidence in oneself and, most importantly, in the ultimate wisdom of the dispossessed, as honed by dialogue, accountability, and contestation. He articulated the ideals of social justice and equal opportunity. With the wisdom in his mind, he advocated that it is our job to find innovative ways to create sustainable, productive, and meaningful work for anyone who seeks it.
The influence of Nelson Mandela in championing and practicing forgiveness is enormous. He taught us that, it is hard for individuals and for societies to move on if they are not able to forgive. Forgiveness is based on our ability to acknowledge that people can be redeemed. At the same time forgiveness does not mean that we forget atrocities that are committed during a conflict. Part of the healing process also means holding culpable actors accountable for their actions during the conflict. As the first president of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela insisted on building a country based on social justice, inclusion, and forgiveness. This is a legacy that all peoples can build upon for a peaceful future.