Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Nelson Mandela, 1918–2013

The passing of Nelson Mandela is sure to inspire a global outpouring of mourning, testimonials, and commentary, perhaps on a scale without precedent in the age of the Internet and social media. His life story and character have long moved and inspired many millions of people. Mandela received a life sentence for treason in 1964 for his anti-apartheid activism and spent 27 years in prison. After his release in 1990, he began leading negotiations for a peaceful end to apartheid with F.W. de Klerk, then-president of South Africa. In 1994, Mandela was elected president in the nation's first free multiracial elections. Shortly thereafter, he instigated a truth and reconciliation process that sought forgiveness in forging a new multiracial democracy.

Mandela stepped down from the presidency after one term and became a global statesman. He devoted his time over the next few years to peace negotiations in other African countries, charitable work, and advocacy for such causes as human rights, poverty eradication, and HIV/AIDS prevention. In 1993, Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president, shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Mandela's leadership was not without criticism in some aspects, and South Africa today still struggles with inequality, corruption, and violent crime, while the African National Congress (ANC) he led is a divided party. However, he leaves behind a functional democracy and sub-Saharan Africa's largest economy—outcomes that were hardly assured in the last days of apartheid.

Mandela is without dispute among the 20th century's most significant, influential, and revered figures, and will be studied globally for many years to come. In South Africa he remains both Madiba (his Xhosa clan name) and "The Father of the Nation."

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