Freed at last, Mandela embraced reconciliation to save his nation. As South Africa's first black President, he set an example of unity and hope

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    There was nothing inevitable about the world's idolization of Mandela: he came from poverty, he took up arms, he was black, and he lived in far-off Africa. But in a world so often split by division and hatred and weighed down by ignorance and prejudice, there were few systems so universally acknowledged to be unjust as apartheid. Accordingly, Mandela's struggle, the lessons it held and the pronouncements he made also came to be viewed as universal truths. "Courage is not the absence of fear," he wrote, "but the triumph over it." Elsewhere he wrote, "The oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity." Perhaps what most moved his admirers around the world--and most inspired them--was that despite Mandela's suffering, the pain of his family and the death of so many of his friends, his message was one of hope. He remained, he said, "fundamentally an optimist." He believed in "keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward." A lifetime of struggle taught him, he said, that "no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love ... Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished." Mandela's legacy is final proof of that. His flame may now be extinguished. But his goodness will never be.


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