Looking back on his 93 years, there are 11 lessons (from many) that I would like to share from his legacy which would help us make a small but positive mark in our society. Here they are:
1. Determination in fighting for the right thing. Nelson Mandela’s fought against apartheid which was a struggle of more than 50 years from 1943 when he joined ANC to 1994 when South Africa became independent and he became president. Of these years, 27 were in prison.
2. Never sell out on your beliefs. Nelson Mandela while still serving in prison had repeated offers from the apartheid regime to accept release for independence in small portion of South Africa called the Transkei, from where he hailed from. He simply turned them all down.
3. Be ready to change your tactics. In 1960 Nelson Mandela together with other leaders set up the military wing of ANC. After being released from prison in 1990, Mandela would eventually renounce all armed tactics and once again resort to peaceful negotiations.
4. Know the facts. Mandela was an astute lawyer and during his incarceration, his jailers in the 1980s, repeatedly attempted to get him to renounce militarism; however he remained adamant in his belief that prisoners cannot enter into contracts – only free men can negotiate.
5. Admit our mistakes. In interviews later in life, Mandela admitted that the ANC had committed some human rights abuses and even criticized anyone who attempted to deny it.
6. Reconcile with your enemies. Nelson Mandela worked on the setting up the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
7. Sharing with others. Mandela has shared his life in books and through post retirement charity organizations that work on ills affecting the world today.
8. Lead from the front. When the Springboks rugby team won the 1995 rugby world cup, Nelson Mandela presented the winner’s trophy to the Captain Francois Pienaar while wearing a replica of Pienaar’s no. 6 Springboks t-shirt. This was a symbol that served to further heal the very tangible racial tension, in South Africa.
9. Letting go. Nelson Mandela became President in 1994 and in 1999 chose not to run for a second term, yet he could have won by a landslide. He instead handed over to Thabo Mbeki.
10. Smile. Mandela is also known for his big smile when he is meeting with people all over the world.
11. Serve humbly. Graca Machel once said, “I found this simple man,” as she described him in 1998 just before they were married. Indeed his actions of “letting go” of a presidency, of forgiving his captors, serving tea to his guests, and many more are testament to the humility and person of Nelson Mandela.
If applied, these lessons would make the world a better place and for that may God bless Mandela and give him many more years to inspire us.