Commemorating the Birth of Nelson Mandela By Remembering What He Was Prepared to Die For

Nelson Mandela was born a 100 years ago on July 18, 1918. He dedicated his life to ending the apartheid system in South Africa, which happened shortly after his release from prison during the early 1990s. 

On April 20, 1964, Nelson Mandela gave what many feel was his greatest speech. He delivered it from the dock of the Pretoria courtroom while waiting sentencing. It was three hours long and he ended it by saying 

“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this 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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” 

He was sentenced a couple of months later to life imprisonment instead of death, though he was prepared to die.  

He served 27 years of the sentence because of increasing international and domestic pressure and elected President of South Africa a few years later. 

He ended his first public speech after his release the same way he ended his 1964 speech by declaring an ideal he was prepared to die for.  

“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 opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die.” 

He died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. December 8 was proclaimed a national day of prayer and reflection.  

Times of prayer and reflection can provide opportunities for us to pray and reflect upon ideals to live for and to strive to achieve as noted in the quotes above. Also noted is the experience of cherishing an ideal, which should embrace the real. Living with the tension of the ideal and the real is the lesson taught us by Nelson Mandela.

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