GENE ROBERTSON: Nelson Mandela was hero, leader who cared about everyone

Friday, December 6, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:23 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nelson Mandela is no longer walking among us, but his spirit will live as long as there are injustices that must be addressed. He is a leadership role model for us all to emulate.

He has never been indifferent to his fellow man. He was always connected to others, including the guards that held him captive on Robben Island.

He began expressing his concern for others openly as a nonviolent activist. Indifference was not a part of his personal, political or moral makeup. He willingly connected himself to people who were oppressed. He refused to sell out to the controlling system for personal comfort. He suffered in behalf of others for more than 27 years for people and principles.

He became a bridge between people rather than an instrument of revenge for the disenfranchised that he had previously advocated for.

He exploited his notoriety in behalf of reconciliation and peace for South Africa and as a model for other countries addressing their own internal struggle.

He never ran in place indifferent to others. He remained concerned for others.

Pastor and philosopher Martin Niemöller, who survived the Nazi concentration camps was credited with the statement, which began with “First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist." It ended with “then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” Nelson Mandela would not let that happen. He spoke and he acted in behalf of others. He was both a hero and a leader. He lived his life fully and admirably. He cared — and acted on his caring.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. He writes occasional columns for the Missourian.

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