Nelson Mandela’s recent passing invites a reflection on his legacy by way of comparison with Lincoln and King.
All three faced great adversity, with a will not let it defeat them.
All three were vilified in the process of fighting for new births of freedom against entrenched vested interests.
Striking in all three was not only their absence of rancor but their advocacy of its opposite. Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” King: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Mandela: “I know that people expected me to harbor anger toward whites. But I had none. My hatred was for the system.”
The vision sustaining them? Lincoln’s faith in “the better angels of our nature.” King’s dream—“when all of God’s children…will be able to join hands.” Mandela’s understanding: “All men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency…If their heart is touched, they are capable of changing.”
Steel will, feeling heart, bold dream, abiding faith— Abraham, Martin and Nelson set the bar high.
When a leader pushes for extensions of freedom despite every obstruction, hear these three cheering. When a leader is maligned without responding in kind, hear these three cheering.