“The one thing I told him, I wanted to make sure he understood how important his leadership and sacrifice has been to who I’ve become, to who my husband has become and, in short, I just said, ‘Thank you….Thank you….Thank you.’ It’s really hard to know what to say to such an icon.”
The First Lady does not often struggle to find the words to express her feelings. In this case, I know exactly how she feels.
I was born in the mid 70s, the first generation born after the most divisive and bloodiest decade in America since the 1860s. I grew up hearing about Gandhi in my grandparents generation. I heard the stories of the civil rights struggles from my parents generation as they literally had skin in the game. I had Mandela. I was in high school when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison with a raised fist and huge smile. I was, and frankly still am, amazed that a man who for 27 years was locked away in the bowels of a prison like an animal could walk out with his head held high like he was a conquering hero. Watching that scene inspired me to read everything I could get my hands on that had the name Nelson Mandela in it. It didn’t take long to see that Mandela, when he walked out of that prison, was not projecting conquering hero. He WAS a conquering hero. I join with Mrs. Obama in giving thanks to Nelson Mandela.
Thank you for being the voice of oppressed people not just in South Africa, but the world.
Thank you for standing strong for your beliefs.
Thank you for standing before those who sought to end you and making it clear that your cause was just, and if need be you would give your life for it.
Thank you for enduring 27 years of bondage so that 27 million could be free.
Thank you for setting the example that though your body may be free, if you hold revenge in your heart you will always be a prisoner and absolving those who kept you locked away for 27 years.
Thank you for putting peace before pride and not only embracing, but working with, in the spirit of a new South Africa, the government that took 27 years from you.
Thank you for acknowledging that like everyone else you were a flawed human being, but being a flawed human doesn’t mean you can’t be a humanitarian.
Thank you for being with us far longer than we had any right to ask of you.
Thank you Madiba.