Nelson Mandela — What I Learned

Wow. What a guy. I recently finished reading his autobiography: “Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela”.

Now I was not even two years old when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated into office as President of South Africa in 1994. I always knew of his glowing reputation and influence but I had very little understanding of what he did. I had heard of apartheid and of course the civil rights movement here in America but had never witnessed any likeness of racism in my life.

I grew up in a small suburban town with a primarily white and latino populous. Therefore, I never quite grasped the concept of racism. Of course I am lucky to come from a different era and location where racism does not run rampant. But to be honest, I am ashamed in this country. The recent election and shootings seem to bring out the worst in people. In the end we are humans, all of us, no matter the color. This is the message I took so strongly from Mandela’s story. Nelson Mandela believed in a truly united and free South Africa for all people. He believed in the goodness of people even during the time of apartheid.

Apartheid was a mechanism used by the National Party to divide the nation between white and black people. Apartheid is an Afrikaan’s word literally meaning, “separateness”.

Madiba, as he was frequently called, was his family name and serves as a term of respect. The name, Nelson, was given to him when he began to attend school. Nelson Mandela loved school. He believed that education is an essential part of living a productive life. I think it is important that young people all across the globe receive that message. Education does not always mean classroom learning. The lessons that Mandela learned as a child in a small village, the classroom, as a young lawyer, and as a member of the ANC were all instrumental in making him the man we all loved and respected.

His positivity stuck out like a sore thumb to me throughout the entire story too. He was born into the worst possible situation for a black man to possibly be born into, and yet he emerged as the first president of a free and democratic South Africa. Nelson Mandela carried himself with intelligence and a confidence that thwarted any attacks at his character or ideals. The man spent 27 years in prison and never believed he would ever escape but he never let go of his values.

Mandela was a man who demanded respect through his actions, even in a time where people tried very hard to discredit and disrespect him. His story is inspirational on a level that may never be seen again. His life was certainly not easy. Yet this made him one of the most influential and productive people to ever walk this earth.

As a writer, I sometimes find myself searching for the right time to get some work done. We as humans are always looking for that perfect situation to accomplish something. But if we are looking for the perfect time to do something, it will never come. Nelson Mandela is a testament to this. He achieved more in his lifetime than most men ever will during the most imperfect situation. He represents perseverance, intelligence, empathy, and kindness.

After reading more about his story and learning of his past, I now regard Madiba as one of the most influential people to ever live. He is one of the role models I believe everyone should look up to. He taught us to do what was right and to never give up, no matter how hard it gets. Whatever it is you want to achieve in this life, go achieve it. Nothing is stopping you except yourself.

Nelson Mandela believed in learning from your experiences and appreciating where you come from. So in closing, never lose sight of where you came from and what you learned. This perspective will keep you grounded and propel you into accomplishing your goals.