Madiba, in Memoriam

There will be many obituaries and tributes to Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at age 95 in his country, South Africa.

Today, many will give speeches, some of which will be heartfelt and others not so much. But we know that many more, perhaps unknowingly, will honor him by advocating for the human rights of minorities struggling against some type of segregation—whether racial, economic or gender—that consumes our societies.

Madiba, as the Mandela clan called him, was the central figure against South Africa’s racial segregation, known as apartheid. He struggled in various fronts and was the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed branch of the African National Congress.

Mandela was a 20th century figure who, although he won the Nobel Peace Prize, was South Africa’s first black president and received more than 250 awards and recognition from around the world, was at one time serving a life sentence, accused of sabotage.

After an intense struggle, he was finally released in February 1990, after 27 years in prison. Despite attacks against him, he always held on to the hope of ending racial differences. Even after apartheid ended in his country, his priority always was national reconciliation.

Madiba was a tireless man with a great everyday philosophy. Perhaps one of the quotes that best describe him is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And he battled against a regime that seemed impossible to overthrow. After being in jail for 27 years, it would have seemed impossible for him to survive and once he was released, that he would maintain his conciliatory spirit, even as president. As a result, in his biography, that sentence is much more than a bunch of words. It is an entire outlook on life.

May you rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.