SUMMER IS A FINE TIME FOR WRITING AND I’VE GREATLY ENJOYED putting the final touches on a book on the complex life of Nelson Mandela that I began a year ago before his sad passing.
His death brought out worthy global praise and extolled some of those qualities we so came to love about him: reconciliation, champion of human rights, a powerful personality which he used for the public good, international ambassador for peace, and a vast inner life.
Yet we often overlooked how Mandela felt about poverty and the depth to which it moved him. He had felt it in his own life, but, more than that, he placed human want in the broader context of human rights. Given his universal belief in human equity, what else did we expect? And yet in the glow of all his other great accomplishments and beliefs, we often miss this one. We frequently forget that the great South African leader drew a connection between human rights and poverty that could never be severed in his life, nor in his conduct. He remains one of the great examples of a unified life, one where belief has to be matched with action.
After retiring from public life, and due to his advancing years, Mandela cut down on his schedule. But there was one engagement he didn’t want to miss: Make Poverty History’s 2005 rally in London, England’s Trafalgar Square. His reasoning was powerful enough in itself:
“As you know, I recently announced my retirement from public life and should really not be here. However, as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
There is no need to go into depth regarding his attitude and philosophy regarding poverty and degradation because if you watch the video below, you’ll get it all. It is what set him apart, for all too often many of us seek rest in a troubled world. And we require that tranquility just as surely as he must have in his later years. But he couldn’t do it, and in that was his greatness. As poverty grows in our own country, Mandela’s life is a reminder that our rest can come at a price and that our lack of watchfulness continues to erode our collective life. Here’s the link to the video.