The Indispensable Man: Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)

6 Dec


No one is indispensable. Yet history is full of individuals whose absence or presence changed the course of human events and altered the fate of nations. Most of these were autocrats whose accumulation of power was itself the reason to fear the vacuum resulting from their departure. But Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday, Dec. 5, at the age of 95, became indispensable because he had dispensed with the things that empowered tyrants and with which they rarely parted: pride, power, anger and vengeance.

By the time of his death, he had not been President of South Africa for 14 years. Yet he remained first in the hearts of his compatriots who were so fearful of his passing that prayers went up from believers and unbelievers alike whenever he took ill. What they feared they would lose when they lost him was manifold: the wisdom to see racial reconciliation as a…

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