….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.
These were the final lines of the speech Nelson Mandela made on April 20, 1964, during the opening of his trial on charges of sabotage at the Supreme court of South Africa.
As we know, Mandela did not, as it turned out, have to die for the cause he spoke about that day. Instead, he gave 27 years of his physical freedom, and the rest of his days to the task of shining a light on those “cherished ideals”—-as an anti-apartheid hero, as South Africa’s first black president, as a peacemaker, a healer, a symbol of freedom, a moral compass.
The sum of light, compassion, and forgiveness available to the rest of us is far greater for Nelson Mandela’s choice.