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There will never be another Nelson Mandela

Casey Thomas | 12/20/2013, 9:35 a.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with the readers of The Dallas Examiner this past year. I have had the chance to write freely about any topic that has come to mind. For that, I am truly thankful.

It would be less than appropriate if I chose to write about anything at this time other than the transition of the honorable Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa. Much has already been said about the life of this giant, and there is a movie that is coming out that will give more insight. (Isn’t the timing of that unbelievable?) However, I would like to talk about Mandela from my perspective, as someone who is south of 45 years of age.

It is common knowledge now that Mandela spent 27 years locked in prison for his protest against the oppressive South African government. He was freed from prison and would later go on to be elected to serve as president of the very country that oppressed him. That is magnificent in itself. However, we don’t often hear about the courage that it took for him to stand up against apartheid in South Africa and to go to jail for what he believed in.

Here in this country, we hear almost daily about the sacrifices of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those who marched with him. How he was killed for standing up for what he believed in. We hear of how the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., founder of Rainbow Push, formerly known as the Rainbow Coalition, spoke out against unfair housing and economic conditions that affected the African American community. The fact that Jackson decided to run for president in the Democratic primary and actually won several states during the race was an example of what we could do when we kept “hope alive.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t know a whole lot about the revolutionist Mandela. By the time I became aware of Mandela, he had been freed and was considering running for president. I remember watching an episode of the television show, A Different World, where the college students on Hillman College’s campus were planning a protest rally against the South African government and challenging the U.S. government and other American businesses to divest from South Africa for supporting apartheid.

I remember when Mandela came to the United States and toured the inner city to see what life was like for us here in this country. People from all over came to New York City to see Mandela, as he was a symbol of hope and a beacon of light for us here. How one man determined to see change happen could make all the difference in the world.

I also remember when dignitaries from all over the world flew to South Africa to celebrate their hero, Madiba, as he would turn 90 years old. Stories of his commitment and determination would be told over and over again as the world would celebrate with him. His leadership style and his personality inspired leaders from politics to business to emulate him.

As the weather has kept many of us home this weekend, we have had a chance to relive many of the obstacles and challenges that Mandela has overcome. It has helped my generation and those who have come after me to appreciate the man he was before his imprisonment and the man he has become as a result of it. So I take this moment to say thank you to Mandela, for living a life of commitment, determination, redemption and reconciliation. There will never be another one like you. Take your rest, you have truly earned it.