Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, a Xhosa homeland that later became one of the "Bantustans" set up as independent republics by the apartheid regime to cement the separation of whites and blacks.
Mandela's royal upbringing gave him a regal bearing that became his hallmark. Many South Africans of all races would later call him by his clan name, Madiba, as a token of affection and respect.
Nelson Mandela's death deprived the world of one of one of the great figures of modern history and set the stage for days of mourning and reflection about a colossus of the 20th century who projected astonishing grace, peace, resolve and good humor.
Nelson Mandela was a master of forgiveness. South Africa's first black president spent a third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid.
He sought to win over everything in a peaceful transition that inspired the world. It was this generosity of spirit that made Mandela a global symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation in a world often jarred by conflict and division.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people," Mandela said. "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.
Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and that peace is possible within each one of us — if we just believe, dream and work together. Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world.
Through his work as a human rights lawyer, prisoner of conscience, and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa, Mandela became one of the most recognized peacemakers of our time.
May those who followed in his leadership shoes learn the art of selfless serving and sacrifice. May we all renew our resolve to let no one suffer when we can do something about it. May those who bully and inflict pain, suffering, and discrimination never get away with it. May his spirit of serving live within us forever.
“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build" - Nelson Mandela
Rest in peace our dear Madiba.