Twenty one years ago today, on May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa, following the first fully representative democratic election in South Africa.
Stephen Covey once spoke of Nelson Mandela while explaining the concept of “moral authority”:
I recently had a visit from Nelson Mandela. You can see his moral authority. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell said that Mandela’s inauguration was one of the most electrifying moments of his whole life. On Mandela’s left side were his family and loved ones, and on his right side were his gaolers who had tortured and demeaned him. Yet he bowed to them and said: ‘Good morning, gentleman.’
I asked him, ‘How long did it take to get over the bitterness and the demeaning treatment and torture you experienced?’ Mandela said, ‘About four years – I noticed how they talked to each other and how they talked about each other’s families. I came to realise that they were good people who were also victims of the apartheid system’.
Some of my favorite Mandel quotes:
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.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.
Thank you, Mr. Mandela, for your undying quest for freedom in the world!