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I grew up knowing nothing of you but knowing there were souls like you on earth.

When I saw your face, I saw a softness that belied all the hardship that you and your country had seen. I saw the crinkle in the corner of your eyes that spoke of smiles more than tears. And you gave me hope. You gave me hope, whilst sitting in a land of massive inequality, that we could all make a difference. You were the first figure of empowerment to whom I felt a connection.

As you pass and gaze back upon us from a different realm, there will be voices that seek to undo that empowerment. Not because they seek to pull humanity back but because we, as a culture, have a hard time reconciling charismatic leaders still being fallible. We somehow expect our personal icons to be impervious to the human condition, when it was your connection to your humanity that made you so iconic in the first place. Forgive us as we find our way through.

As as the scales tip and slide to find their balance, know that I, and I suspect so very many more, will strive to keep your legacy alive. Perhaps it will not be the legacy that some people call the truth, but it will be the one that most people associate with the name ‘Nelson Mandela’. May it be a chance for us to say:

that democracy and full worldly integration is still an ideal for which we need to strive
the actions of a single person can and will make a difference and we all need to start today, each day
that you do not have to be perfect and have led an unimpeachable life to start to lead by example

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Where globalization means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom.
– Nelson Mandela

Today is a day I knew would come, and whilst I am sorry the world loses that smile, rest well and know that we try to pick up the reins from here.

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