Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Nelson Mandela's Legacy Is Imperishable

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Nelson Mandela's Legacy Is Imperishable

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Nelson Mandela's legacy is imperishable


An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Dec. 5:

Freedom fighter. Democrat. Healer. Nobel Peace laureate. Father of a nation. Nelson Mandela towered above the evil of apartheid with a gritty nobility of spirit that became a beacon of hope for his struggling South African people and an inspiration to all. His death leaves the nation of 50 million grieving the passing of a beloved father figure, and the world bereft of a champion of peace.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted in a gracious tribute, "the world has lost one of its great moral leaders and statesmen" with his passing. "Mandela's enduring legacy for his country, and the world, is the example he set through his own 'long walk to freedom.' With grace and humility, he modelled how peoples can transform their own times and in doing so, their own lives."

For many months South Africans kept Mandela in their thoughts and prayers even as they reconciled themselves to the declining health of their 95-year-old former president. "He's our freedom fighter," said Gerald Moshe, a 19-year-old student who has never known apartheid, as a nation waited for the inevitable. "Without him, we'd be under apartheid. Now we can do anything." Simple words. But few of the tributes that have poured in from the great and the good were more eloquent.

Famously, Mandela spent 10,000 days in apartheid prisons under a racist white regime between 1962 and 1990 as the authorities tried to make the world forget him and abandon his cause. Instead, as President Barack Obama has said, he became "a hero for the world," his fame and stature steadily growing. And when he emerged he preached freedom, brotherhood and "the common humanity that bonds both black and white," where a lesser spirit might have been consumed by bitterness and the desire for revenge.

"We come from a people who, because they would not accept to be treated as subhuman, redeemed the dignity of all humanity everywhere," he told Canada's Parliament after his release in 1990. Four years later South Africa peacefully shook off the fetters of apartheid and joined the ranks of free nations.

In a century racked by world wars, genocides and other horrors, the man known as Madiba was an icon of civility and reconciliation who, like fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helped save his Rainbow Nation from civil war.

The African National Congress leader not only helped end three centuries of white rule, but as the nation's first democratically elected black president from 1994 to 1999 presided over a political miracle, persuading the newly liberated black majority to set aside past injustice and work with their former oppressors to create a democratic, multiracial society of equals. "We have confounded the prophets of doom," he once famously said, "and achieved a bloodless revolution. …

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