Friday, December 6, 2013

The quest for truth

Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95.

Mr. Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress and the first truly democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa. In 1962 he was arrested and charged with terrorism for daring to challenge apartheid in South Africa. In 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison for the crime of advocating for equal rights.

He was elected president of South Africa in 1994 after the fall of the apartheid regime. Mr. Mandela could've been bitter. He could have sought revenge for the years of oppression he - and his followers - suffered.

But he wasn't.

Instead of looking back and seeking to punish those who made a mockery of equal rights, Mr. Mandela instituted a truth and reconciliation commission whose purpose was to document the atrocities committed during the apartheid regime so that history would have a record of what was done. Those who committed the acts of oppression were not punished. The purpose of the investigation was to establish who did what and when.

As a leader he showed far more patience than any other head of state. His goal was to move the nation forward without focusing on the past. While what happened over a 50 year period was important for the nation to understand, Mr. Mandela wanted to move past those injustices and create a society in which all were free to participate.

While the world is poorer for its loss, it is also vastly richer for Mr. Mandela's time on it.

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