Nelson Mandela was a global force for freedom and human dignity. His passing is a time for sadness but also for renewed recognition of the example he set of courage, humility, perseverance and personal sacrifice as he led South Africa from apartheid to democracy.
“President Mandela was an activist, a prisoner of conscience, a political leader, and a venerated statesman, but he was, above all, a teacher,” said NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright. “He taught us that the power of forgiveness is greater than the power of hate, and that differences of race and nationality matter less than our shared humanity. These lessons are simple to articulate but require immense wisdom and courage to implement; Mandela’s strength as a teacher is that he not only advised us what to do; he showed us how.”
NDI was privileged to work in South Africa to support the historic 1994 elections when apartheid was formally dismantled and the nation transitioned to a multiracial democracy. President Mandela charted a course of reconciliation that remains a model for other democratic transitions around the world.
The Institute witnessed the strength of that model in 1997 when it supported the effort to bring to South Africa leaders of Northern Ireland factions who, themselves, were soon to enter peace talks. For the first time, representatives of all the Northern Ireland political parties sat at the same table to hear President Mandela detail how reconciliation was achieved through negotiations. Less than a year later they were signatories to the historic Good Friday peace agreement. “Not a day went by in the talks that a reference was not made to the South African experience,” said one of the Northern Ireland signers of the agreement. “It was a turning point in our lives.”
"President Mandela leaves behind a globe in which the mere mention of his name inspires faith that injustice can be ended and conflicts resolved through respect for the dignity of every human being," said Albright. "That is why the best way to honor President Mandela is not merely to mourn him, but to follow his example."
Published Dec. 6, 2013