ROSE NOLEN: A remembrance of Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:37 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I feel privileged and give thanks for having lived in a world shared by a man like Nelson Mandela.

When I think about it, he was a man I have known for most of my life. I learned about him as a child. In the early days of my life, Africa seemed to be a long way across the ocean, but as I grew older, the country grew a lot closer. I always understood the evils of apartheid, and I always knew that Mandela and the members of his party were opposed to it. I didn’t believe that I would live to see the day when it would end, but I did. And I also saw the day that Mandela would be released from jail and become president of the new South Africa.

Men like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. are men apart. They are men born into a certain season, for a certain purpose. I don’t pretend to be worldwise and understand all the ways of this world. I only know how lucky I am to have lived in a time when both of these men were a part of the world I lived in.

To imagine that men governed in South Africa and obviously thought that their way of life was right and honorable is easy to appreciate. People who live without religious influence and training can endure any way of life. So, of course, when they come under the influence of those who have been taught other values, they can often be persuaded to live differently. I am glad that the rulers of South Africa were persuaded to change their way of life.

Certainly, not many people who spend 27 years of their life in prison can expect to emerge in such a fond fashion. Very few, I’m sure, expect to live the rest of their life by forgiving their enemies. Who could even imagine seeing an entire country transformed from an inhuman dynasty to a livable society?

This entire drama lifted from the pages of 20th century history almost materializes into a make-believe fantasy. In the end, Nelson Mandela sounds like a made-up character emerging from a make-believe story.

Nevertheless, our memories are in tune. Mandela’s life and times in South African history are real and noble. Every now and then, life grants us the opportunity to bear witness to greatness.

I’m glad I was present in the moment.

Rose M. Nolen writes a weekly column for the Missourian. You can join the conversation with her by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at

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