Nelson Mandela is currently in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital in South Africa as the world waits for updates on the 94-year-old’s condition.
When we think of Nelson Mandela, our minds bring up the image of the most prominent figure in the anti-apartheid movement. Imprisoned for 26 years for this cause, he was released in 1990 only to become president of the ANC in 1991, receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and be elected president of the Republic of South Africa in the country’s first-ever open election.
The facts and dates, for most of us, are overshadowed by what we know about the kindness and humility of a man who suffered greatly in an intolerant society when he took a stand for what was right. We would expect someone who had 26 years of their life taken from them to by cynical about the world around them, but Nelson Mandela refused to let the intolerant views of this world break his spirit.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” ― Nelson Mandela
I was thinking of what I would want to ask him if I were given the chance. I first thought of all of his accomplishments. I would want a look inside of how he stayed on track even through suffering and immense pressure…but then I realize his accomplishments and his triumphs are well-documented. That isn’t something I need to learn from him; we celebrate them and it is the source of inspiration for so many around the world. He was a remarkable human being; I would want to ask him, more about the other side of his life. I would ask him about his mistakes. What choices or decisions in his life did he make (that he did not see as positive) from which others could learn?
I wonder what he would say.