How Nelson Mandela teaches us to be exceptional leaders

| Posted by Jinnene | 

Nelson Mandela lived from 1918 to 2013. He spearheaded the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and was elected as that country’s president in 1994.

His would mark the first fully democratic election, as the first black leader of his nation. May he be remembered as a symbol of progress, and a beacon for peace.

I watched Pathe Pictures’ “Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom” last night with my parents.

Directed by Justin Chadwick and starring Idris Elba, this film allows its viewers to learn a great deal about freedom, or the lack thereof.

I was aware of the restorative work Mandela had done to dismantle apartheid in South Africa, but I never connected fully with just how recently these events occurred.

Perhaps we consider segregation as a decades old ship that long ago sailed. Sadly, it’s just not so.

It wasn’t until the turn of the century that South Africa would find its freedom.

And how harrowing, that Mandela, a man who spent so many years in prison (27!) would come to lead a nation as its president. A nation so in need of healing.

Nelson Mandela is a true hero. I invite us all to take a moment to pause, and follow the breath three times as we offer blessings for his legacy to be honored.

Thank you if you are able to give thanks for Mandela’s many labors.

Thank you to individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, who have shaped our own country’s history regarding civil rights.

I am grateful for these bold, fearless leaders, and for countless others who put forth efforts so that we may live as a more unified people.

The story of Mandela’s trials and tribulations as a civil rights activist got me to thinking: What does it mean to be free?

And why is it so easy to take these freedoms for granted (especially for countless of us white folks)?

What are some freedoms that you can give thanks for today? How can you become more mindful about keeping these gratitudes close to your heart?

One freedom I take for granted, is my ability to avoid social groups among which I am the scrutinized minority.

As a white female living in a very white city (Seattle), knocking around in a very female (and white) spiritual community (yoga), I confess that I encounter little training toward feeling into the physical experience of being singular.

I pledge to become more mindful of this.

I am also able to vote. Not that many decades back, I wouldn’t have that right.

Instead of being grateful for this privilege, I have looked at the ability to vote almost as an encumbrance.

I pledge to become more mindful of this.

I may work wherever I choose to work. My partner honors my independence. My parents place no expectations upon me.

I can walk down the street and not concern over violence.

But well after his incarceration in 1962, late into the 20th century, Mandela’s countrymen couldn’t say this.

Chaos ensued in the streets of Johannesburg: fighting, explosions, gunfire; murdering of women, children, elderly.

As we look back now with heavy hearts, is it more important to remember those who perished in South Africa during apartheid, fighting for the freedoms they so much deserved, or for us to make it a daily ritual to give thanks for our own freedoms?

I propose that we do both.

I like the idea that one day, I would get to meet Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps in the afterlife, I could say, “Hello, Nelson. Thank you for your steadfast work to introduce new dignities for a freer people.

I sketched your beautiful, kind face…”

(My sketch of Mandela is pictured here with this post, sweet reader.)

“I hope you like it.”

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