To Nelson Mandela, a National Hero

I am sure the list of those who paid the ultimate price to provide positive leadership to their country thought of the supreme sacrifice they were making.

I am sure President Lincoln thought of the many racist southerners who hated him for his devotion to make all men free and I bet he was aware of the price that he might pay.

Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Emmet Till, and, sadly, every President of our great country lived with that same cloud always present. Why do ignorant, misguided people think they can change the efforts of a leader trying to make this a better world? That bullet may silence one voice but others will rise up and the cause will not die.

Today Nelson Mandela lies in a hospital on life support in South Africa, his country he has loved and fought for all his life. He spent twenty-seven years in a prison cell – much of it in a cell measuring seven-by-eight feet with a bedroll and a bucket – his incarceration reflecting the wall-less captivity of a majority of his countrymen.

He was released in February 1990 and eventually inaugurated as President in May 1994. Violence among white and black factions threatened to overwhelm constitutional negotiations.

In April 1993, before he became President, Mandela’s friend Chris Hani was assassinated in front of his home by a white supremacist. Seldom has the role a leader may play been so tenuous and the decisions he may make so crucial. The wrong word would have set spark to timber. Instead Mandela urged his followers to be a “disciplined force for peace.”

While still in prison, his friends smuggled out a note reading, in part: “any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.” And they did.

God speed faithful warrior; your love of freedom will always be a beacon for men who seek a better tomorrow.


2 thoughts on “To Nelson Mandela, a National Hero

  1. Hi Ms. Key,

    My name is Jimmy and I am a senior at Harvard University. I am writing my senior thesis on the history of school desegregation in Louisville, and a member of the board recommended I look you up as an authoritative source. I was hoping to speak with you about your experience with JCPS. Additionally, I was told you wrote a book about the 75 busing program that may be useful to me.

    Hope to hear from you soon


  2. You know how most folks remember where they were when Kennedy was assinated……I also remember where I was when Mandela walked out to freedom. I had driver to church and stayed in my car, missing a lot of the service to hear what they said about him. I , too, admire him so much. Such evidence that what Ghandi and King said , acted out here by Mandela, a quiet but sure stand that did not waiver was stronger than guns or even death. Yes, God speed, dear Mandela. We all owe you so very much.

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