Madiba Mandela

Greta Chapin McGill - December 10, 2013

"The story of Nelson Mandela was the catalyst for humanistic change in the world."

November marked the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy was a media flashpoint during his presidential campaign and his time in office.  Handsome and charismatic, a vibrant man with a young family the entire country embraced as it’s own.  My family came to Washington, DC when my father received a presidential appointment in the Kennedy Administration.  That heady time seemed to race by.  All of a sudden the man who had brought so many bright, talented and diverse people to Washington was gone.

Undaunted, we continue to look to humanitarians to lead us in a time of extreme technological, scientific and cultural change.  The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X , and Robert Kennedy pushed us forward. These men looked for different ways to reach the same goal. That cliché answer to every beauty contestant’s interview question was real to these humanitarians. They wanted world peace.  They had a vision to achieve it.

My little family persevered through these times. We had no choice. My parents required we be educated on world politics and I shall be forever grateful for that. I held my Dad’s hand on a hot day in Atlanta when Dr. King was laid to rest.  I had seen so many images of the South and read so much of the civil rights struggle a trip to the capitol of the confederacy was terrifying for me.  The vision has never left me.  A plain wooden casket on a wagon pulled by a mule is stamped in my personal history timeline.

During my college years the politics on campus was about anti apartheid.  The story of Nelson Mandela was the catalyst for humanistic change in the world. Soweto was a place we knew intimately and identified with politically.  We demonstrated to achieve divestment.  We agitated for large corporations to shed themselves of any ties to the racist government in South Africa.  Nelson Mandela’s release from Robbin Island was an event.  We gathered in a church basement  and watched  his historic walk from prison with Winnie next to him. His hand was raised in what is now a familiar fist. He was smiling that warm smile showing the world his forgiving heart. Making a historic trip to the US shortly there after I heard him speak at Yankee Stadium.  It was an occasion where the spirit of the intense crush of people was like a worldwide family reunion

The history of humankind is profoundly changed by people who are unafraid to die for the ideals of equality and justice even when humanity is unkind to them.  Men and women who sacrifice life and liberty for the good of us all.  The past few decades have changed many things technologically and socially. We have more to change, more to examine and always more do.

The nearness of years end brings reflection.  Not so much of one’s own life but the collective life of humanity. The passing of Nobel Peace Prize receipient Nelson Mandela should give us pause to think about the journey and the passengers we have met along the way. The sites we have seen. We wish you peace Madiba and give you all our blessing. If called upon could I do as you have done?  Could I forgive as you have forgiven? Questions for the ages.