The world lost one of its most revered and inspiring leaders with the passing last week of Nelson Mandela.
The influence and impact of the former South African president extended far beyond his country’s borders to touch the hearts and minds of millions of people around the globe, and it continues to resonate today among all people who struggle for freedom and justice.
After emerging from 27 years of imprisonment under the cruel, despotic rule of the white South African apartheid regime, Mandela led his people to a successful, peaceful revolution that was unprecedented in its insistence on reconciliation over retribution. It would have been far too easy -- and even understandable -- for the long- oppressed black South African majority to have sought vengeance for their years of suffering under their white oppressors.
But Mandela knew that revenge was not a viable foundation on which to build a peaceful, prosperous future for his country and all of its citizens. His living example of acceptance and forgiveness of his former oppressors provided a shining path for his people to follow and the rest of the world to admire and aspire to emulate.
After stepping down from the South African presidency, Mandela continued to work for human rights across the world. He championed the poor and downtrodden and worked to marshal the leaders and resources of the Western democracies to expand freedom and social justice to all who suffered under tyranny and hopelessness.
The world is unlikely to again see the combination of courage, personal sacrifice, integrity, patience and moral spirit that Mandela displayed throughout his amazing and accomplished life. He changed not only his country for the better, but all of us.