I am the Master of my Fate. I am the Captain of my Soul - Invictus
Few people can be said to have changed the course of history. But Nelson Mandela, first black President of South Africa, did. With his passing, today, the world has lost not only a great statesman, but one of its guiding lights and moral centres.
Better people than me will be able to talk about Mandela the man, and the change he bought to South Africa and the world. So I would like to talk about something else. The legacy that he has left for those of left behind.
Mandela occupies a unique place in history. When he became President of South Africa in 1994, he could quite easily have turned around and punished those who had spent decades persecuting his people. But he didn't. Instead he strived for equality. He saw it as his duty and his business to heal the wounds that apartheid had caused. At a time when it would have been quite easy for civil war to have sprung up, he ensured that there was not a white South Africa, or a black South Africa. He ensured there was simply South Africa.
He spoke of love, he strove for equality, he represented freedom. He held no grudges, saying as he left prison "As I walked toward my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." He knew that if things were to change he could not hold onto the past.
Mandela dreamed of a country where all were equal. And in doing so, he inspired the rest of the world to dream with him. You only have to look at the tributes pouring out from across the world to see that. In attempting to change his country, he helped to change the world.
That is the legacy and the bequest that he has left for us. That we keep doing good. That we continue to strive for equality. That we do not let oppression stand. But more than that. That we do not embrace bitterness. That we do not hold on to grudges. That we treat everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed as we ourselves would like to be treated. That we aim to love each other, and never give up on our dreams, even when those dreams seem hopeless and unreachable.
Mandela became in his lifetime a legend around the world. An icon of what we could be and what we should be. In an interview in 2012, F.W. De Klerk, the last white president of South Africa said that "When Mandela goes it will be a moment when all South Africans put away their political differences, will take hands, and will together honour maybe the biggest known South African that has ever lived." I like to think that it will not only be South African's. That in this moment we will all put aside our differences and mark with respect the passing of a great man.
Rest in peace, Mr Mandela. And thank you.