Nelson Mandela has moved into history. On December 5, after a lingering illness, he passed away at age 95 at his beloved hometown of Johannesburg.
The world mourns Mandela’s passing and his funeral is very likely to bring in a who’s who of leaders from all the nations of the world, and why not? He was no ordinary man, but a leader who cast a giant shadow. He showed that one man can make a difference. His people and the entire world became the better because of the example he set.
Indeed, the man who played the biggest role in ending apartheid in South Africa ended his life on this mortal plane widely regarded as a hero. Not just a hero of his homeland, but a hero for all the world to appreciate and admire. Not bad for someone who was considered a terrorist during his years in prison, even by the United States.
In these modern times, there was no greater evil practiced as a government policy than apartheid. Late in the 20th century, human beings were still judged based on nothing more than the color of their skin, and woe to the residents of South Africa who were true Africans with dark complexions.
They were displaced by white outsiders, immigrants who stole the country from its original inhabitants, turning them into virtual slaves for the longest time.
Nelson Mandela changed all that. Mandela fought the good fight, and he paid the price, serving 27 years in prison. But he never surrendered, until a revolution necessary to end apartheid was won and he ended up as president of South Africa.
Perhaps his greater contribution to the world was in becoming a global philanthropist after his political career ended. He was arguably one of the most recognizable personalities in the planet, and he used that fame to advance his beliefs, foremost of which was his message of tolerance.
Philippine politicians have much to learn from Mandela.
After all, here was a man who was imprisoned by the white rulers of his homeland, yet he did not strike back in anger after he was elected president of his country. He preached tolerance and his people heeded his teachings. The white Afrikaaners stayed in their adopted country of South Africa, peacefully co-existing with the black majority.
He received more accolades than any other living leader, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin. Through his Nelson Mandela Foundation, he was also one of the most visible activists in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS.
By comparison, Filipino politicians can be a most vicious and unforgiving lot. For example, behold how the Marcoses and Aquinos constantly show that they can never, ever work together for the good of the country, even if they pay lip service to doing so.
More recently, the public has seen how two senior senators—Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Defensor Santiago—have expressed their dislike for each other in the most unbecoming ways imaginable. The two lashed out at each other using the most un-parliamentary language imaginable within the halls of the Senate.
We have to wonder what words of wisdom the South African leader would share with them, as well as the surviving Marcoses and Aquinos.
Today, we salute the passing of a great human being, a citizen of the world named Nelson Mandela. In death, he has become an immortal. He will never be forgotten.