The spirit of civic engagement is more important than the mechanics. Sometimes this spirit shines brighter amidst bitter division than in less trying times, as Nelson Mandela’s legacy, especially in his later life, demonstrates.
Mac McKerral blogs on that legacy at iCitizenForum:
Anyone who wants a lesson in civic engagement at the highest level should read any of the many stories available on the death of Nelson Mandela. I don’t know of anyone in my lifetime who devoted more time and sacrificed more in order to make his home a place of peace and opportunity for all. He used all means necessary to do that — even exerting tremendous influence while locked in a prison on an island off the coast of South Africa.
The Washington Post editorial board also highlights Mandela’s spirit of engagement that has left such an impact on South Africa, and the world:
Nelson Mandela had personal shortcomings, domestic discord and so on. But it was, to a large degree, the overwhelming and reassuring force of his personality that won over nearly everyone he came in contact with, from African villagers to prison guards to the men who ran his government. He was a regal figure, born into tribal royalty, tall, handsome and charming. He moved comfortably and confidently among his country’s many peoples — black, Indian, white — and made a point of seeing the good in each of them. As one of his admirers remarked, he had the gift of making all those he met feel better about themselves…
Mr. Mandela, who died Thursday night at age 95, seemed to understand that the motivating force behind ethnic, religious and racial hatred is not only, or even primarily, self-interest; it is fear, distrust, a lack of understanding. In his person and his policies, he set out to show those on the other side that they had little to fear. He sought unity rather than revenge, honesty and understanding rather than the naked exercise of power. These are all fine abstractions, of course, but never so clear to us as when there is a living figure to exemplify them. That’s why Mr. Mandela’s influence extended so far beyond South Africa and was felt by so many of the world’s peoples other than Africans. It is the reason, now that he is gone, that it is more important than ever — in a century marked so far by frightening eruptions of terror and religious intolerance — to keep before the world the name and example of Nelson Mandela.
RIP Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).
Contributor: Benjamin Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’13