Nelson Mandela was affectionately known by his black South African countrymen as “Tata” because his wisdom and dignified bearing endeared him to many of them as a father.
He was also identified by his Xhosa ancestral name, “Madiba.” In African culture, the ancestral name is of extreme importance. In the African view, ancestors are revered. They do not die as long as they are remembered.
And so, barely a week ago, Tata Madiba Nelson Mandela passed away at age 95. His legacy of struggle and triumph provide many important lessons for you and me, and for the world.
Among the many things he taught by his living example were forgiveness, patience, compassion, commitment to a brighter future, persistence, and respect for diversity and dignity in all human affairs.
By reason of his race, experience, the time and place of his birth and maturation, and eventual position of power, no one on this planet in the modern era even comes close to the powerful example of how men should treat others than Tata Madiba Mandela. Not the pope. Not the Dalai Lama. No president or head of state. No religious or civil rights leader. No one.
When he was released from prison, because of his persistent demand for respect (”call me Mr. Mandela!”), and his thoughtful and humorous treatment of his jailers, even they admired him. He did not merely serve time, he made time serve him.
He believed that one day his body would be free from his solitary prison cell, but his mind was always free. He refused to accept the behavior of a prisoner simply because he was behind bars.
He refused to hate his jailers because they were men simply doing what their superiors had told them to do. He befriended them. After all, were they not all in the same prison?