"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
20 years ago today, February 11th, 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of the prison doors after 27 years of imprisonment. His life-long fight against apartheid in South Africa had succeeded, to the point where the regime chose to give in to the international pressure.
No doubt, Mandela is a strong man, and while he has advocated non-violence in his early struggles, he was no stranger to the use of force to make his beliefs come true. What truly sets him apart is his lack of bitterness after all the years of personal imprisonment and inhumane treatment under an oppressive regime.
During this last 20 years he has advocated strongly for a policy of forgiving and reconciliation. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace price together with the apartheid leader that was responsible for the release, and was elected President of South Africa in the first free election in the country.
If only the world had more leaders like him :-(