Life of Nelson Mandela is to be celebrated

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: While the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, his legacy is something to celebrate

The passing of Nelson Mandela was not a surprise, but for people all over the world who found inspiration and strength from him and his story, the sense of loss was still great.

Nelson Mandela, cast in prison for 27 years before emerging to become a worldwide symbol of human rights and president of his nation, was a man whose life mattered. More than anyone else, he dismantled the unfair political system known as apartheid, heralding a new day in South Africa.

There are those who do the best they can with what they are given to work with. Mandela was one of the rare few who, when the deck was stacked against him, proceeded to reshuffle the deck.

Mandela had been in poor health for some time before he passed away late Thursday at the age of 95. For at least a year, he had fought lung disease that stemmed from his years in prison. Reports Friday stated that plans have been made to bury Mandela Friday at his ancestral home in Qunu, about 450 miles from Johannesburg. South Africa President Jacob Zuma said a memorial service — one that both President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush are expected to attend — will be conducted Tuesday at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium.

While the death of the Nobel Prize winner who served as South Africa’s first black president saddened people around the globe, Zuma said there was also reason for celebration.

“We will spend the week mourning his passing,” Zuma said in a report from Reuters News Service. “We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived.”

Indeed, that is Mandela’s legacy. Rather than succumb, he prevailed. Rather than accept, he changed. And on his shoulders, he carried hope for countless others who found inspiration in the life he lived.

There are few men and women who rise to this stature, one measured not in physical height or strength, but in resolve and the drive and ability to make a difference for the better. It’s been said that the ultimate compliment for a person’s life is for it to be said that the world is a better place for that individual having lived. Truly, that can be said of Nelson Mandela.

There are, of course, concerns over who will take the mantle with his passing. The fact is, a leader and statesman of Nelson Mandela’s stature leaves somewhat of a vacuum in his passing. But his life and the way he lived it are examples for others to follow.

He was a symbol to the world that better is attainable. He personified reconciliation and peaceful co-existence, demonstrating that it was not only possible, but preferable. His loss is something to mourn; his life, something to celebrate.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board