Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Mandela's 95th Birthday TODAY Means for American Values

South Africa's icon Nelson Mandela turned 95 TODAY. 95! His story is a story that all Americans should know because he represents American values we need to be reminded of - especially our Congress.

It is AMAZING he made it to his birthday -- he was too ill for President Obama to visit him on his recent African journey. Mandela's attitudes are a model of  AMERICAN values. He focused on helping build bridges instead of burning them. He was entitled to rage after being imprisoned for decades for exercising his freedom of speech rights. I saw statues of racist leaders still standing when I was there.

I traveled to South Africa in the late 90's on a legal mission. It was when Mandela was serving as the first black majority President of South Africa.   He was elected after being imprisoned for 27 years for opposing Apartheid. Under Apartheid, a minority (of whites) controlled the entire political process. The majority of blacks could not vote. It was even illegal for black people to own a telephone!  I saw a RICH country. An amazing country. I saw vistas that reminded me of the USA far west.

Yet after all those decades of indignities Nelson Mandela came out of prison - NOT to seek revenge on whites, but instead he sought dialogue and reconciliation of its people. His focus was on building a better future for ALL South Africans.TOday I saw a presentation on our Seabrook Rotary's "Books for the World" that has shipped containers of used, donated American school books to kids in South Africa (and other countries) who sit in front of crude chalkboards in grass huts without any books!  They are so grateful for these ten year old books, and the shipping containers become a much needed library or medical center or other needed structure.

Sadly, when Mandela dies I worry about whether the future leaders have his vision? China has bought up Africa minerals for its future, while America has been self absorbed in partisan politics and totally lost out.

How will that affect Americans and our future? I write about it and put photos of today's South Africa in "Better Times Ahead April Fool" in the chapter about my trips to South Africa and Nigeria in "Jet Lag and Voodoo in Africa"

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela! You are a model of what all humans should be. Your values are also American values. They are human values. May you live long and because of you we have prospered.

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