The Life Insurance Market
Tonight, after a LifeSearch night out in Covent Garden I found myself crossing the Thames thinking perhaps I had tried too hard to let young men see an old man's vision. Then my phone buzzed with a text and Kevin Carr told me that Nelson Mandela had just died. Fate and a good PR man had let me learn the news just a few yards from his statue on the South Bank.
Kevin's text reminded me that I once gave a press interview many years ago in which I said Mandela was my hero, for so exemplifying tolerance, humility, patience and an unerring certainty that his way was the right way and the world would one day see that, if he just waited long enough for it to take the chance.
He spent 27 years in jail without guilt. Old lags say that 9 years is the point when one starts to go insane, so how strong must he have been to stay his time waiting for some far off day when truth would liberate him. And no matter that South Africa has turned out pretty much like any other nation, struggling and failing to achieve economic and social fairness for all; in his release and election and forgiving patriotism he gave my country its defining moments and its redemption song.
And then in 1995, even at the apotheosis of his power, he dressed up in a rugby jersey so as to best demonstrate to the world his forgiveness of those who had tormented him, as great a stroke of leadership and communications genius as any from JKF or Martin Luther King or Winston Churchill, and yet greater still because of his personal history of suffering.
I never met him, though my brother's wife did, and I saw him from the crowd when he spoke in Trafalgar Square, but he summed up what he did for white South Africans of my generation when someone suggested that he had given black men great dignity. "You are wrong", he said, "I have given white men dignity". He did. He allowed people like me to be proud of our country for the first time and to move past our guilt at not striving and sacrificing to right the wrongs a government committed in our name. It is thanks to him that so few young people even know the word apartheid now and that my generation got a second chance to become good men.
Has there been a greater, wiser, more noble man these last 2000 years? No man did more to stand fast to what he knew to be right. No man was more forgiving, no man lived who sacrificed more for his people and all of us.
I thought back then in Trafalgar Square and I think now, that he is the greatest man of my time in all the world and the whole of all the history that I know.
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