The “Remembering Nelson Mandela” event at International House on January 24th hosted by our fellow Rotarian Natalie Minya was a huge success. I have never seen that many people packed into the big room at I-House. Brooke and I joined- in, as did Keith Wattenpaugh and family. We enjoyed African music and song, talks on Mandela and his Rainbow Nation (aka South Africa), and a ceremony honoring the elders among us, and a delicious African- themed Potluck. Keith honored me as an elder, which was nice, but just for the record I’d like to be considered a rather youngish-elder at this stage of my life.
After the kids went home or into the other room to watch children’s movie, about a third of the folks stayed to watch the movie SARAFINA with excellent South African cast and also featuring Whoopi Goldenberg in a supporting role. The movie was necessarily quite violent at times portraying the dark days of Apartheid. But the film begins and ends with an up-lifting message from the central character, Sarafina, a young, black South African women coming of age at a horrendous time in her country. Sarafina’s epiphany is “I will not let you make me hate you. I will not allow a desire for revenge to consume me.” Or in Nelson Mandela’s words “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
I have come to understand that Mandela’s power and effectiveness in transitioning a nation came in the end not from his ability to fight, but in his ability to forgive. The ability not to forget but to forgive unspeakable transgressions and to encourage a nation of one’s countrymen do the same is what in my eyes puts Mandela on a par with the great leaders of our country such as Washington and Lincoln. I’m glad I attended this event to honor this great man, and by his own admission not a saint, Nelson Mandela.