With the recent death of Nelson Mandela, it made me pause and reflect on such a magnificent man and the contributions he made to South Africa and to the world. Amazingly, most of this happened in his later years. As I contemplated that, the question in my mind was “Would that of happened in the United States?”
What I mean by that, is would someone his age be held in such reverence and have the respect of our nation to lead his country the way he did?
Let’s take a look…
Mr. Mandela was born on July 18, 1918.
On Feb. 11, 1990, Mr. Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison — at 71 years old. At age 72, he was elected ANC (African National Congress) president at the party’s first national conference.
In 1993, (age 75) he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring stability to South Africa.
In 1994, Mr. Mandela was elected president of South Africa. This was the first time in this country’s history that all races could vote.
In 1997, at age 79, Mr. Mandela stepped down from his role as ANC President, but his spotlight in world history was far from over. He became an ambassador for his country, working relentlessly for HIV/Aids awareness. He also helped to secure the 2010 Football World Cup at which, by the way, he made a public appearance during the closing ceremony, at age 92.
In 2004, Mr. Mandela retired from public life at age 86. In 2008, there was a huge public birthday party held for him to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Clearly he was adored and respected the world over for his contributions, wisdom and life experiences, up until his death on Dec. 5, at age 95.
I believe that among the many, many lessons his life taught us is that age is just a number. I hope our nation learns that lesson.
Let me leave you with one of his quotes – “I have retired, but if there’s anything that would kill me it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do.”
Information provided by Shelly Charter, Valley View Village, 2571 Guthrie Ave., Des Moines, 265-2571.