While working in Tanzania, we were blessed to have lots of support from the South African High Commission (the High Commissioner, Theresa Mary Solomon) & the South African Business Forum. It was inspiring to see black & white South Africans working together on behalf of their country to support our local community development, HIV/AIDS & education projects.
It was also an inspirational to visit South Africa several times, at one point celebrating a lovely two-week Christmas break there. But visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1964, is on the top 10 of my global most inspirational experience list. (It’s a really long list!)
Of course, I remember well when Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990. Singing in the Gospel Choir of an inner city church in Washington, D.C., that Sunday I thought the roof was going to lift off from the jubilant celebratory singing (!) We rejoiced as the world rejoiced in Mandela’s freedom, and then, again, as South Africa moved forward away from its apartheid past into a long-dreamed & prayed-for future.
There are still many challenges but with Nelson Mandela’s leadership (& the efforts of many others), so much blood that could have been shed in civil strife was not.
Back to Robben Island. When my brother & I visited, we were blown away by our tour guides, FORMER PRISONERS, who took us around the island for 2 hours. First hand knowledge imparted from their hearts, they shared raw hopes & past hurts overcome. Despite the accounts of brutality, I noticed their all out efforts to present a balanced view (our guide said that some of the prison guards at times actually helped them.)
Here’s a link to a moving short YouTube video from a former prisoner guide:
What makes leaders like Nelson Mandela great? Vision, humility, willingness to forgive, openness to move within change of oneself to be change & lead change, to think outside the box, to take risks….and wisdom.
Here’s a link to learn more on the Nelson Mandela Foundation website: www.nelsonmandela.org/biography But I’ll leave you with a few of his wise words (some from his book, A Long Walk to Freedom.)
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it is inspiring others to move beyond it.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” Nelson Mandela
grace, peace & Inspiring Leaders
Virginia : )