Nelson Mandela, R.I.P.
Much has been written and said about Nelson Mandela since the former South African president died Thursday at the age of 95. And deservedly so. As U.S. President Barack Obama put it, “He belongs to the ages.”
It’s not just that Mandela became the first black president in a country where the native people had been ruled by whites for centuries that gives him a special place in world history. Nor is it the fact that Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his political efforts to end that country’s apartheid system.
What really sets Mandela apart is that when white control of the country finally collapsed and Mandela came to power, he didn’t engage in the sort of retributionist bloodbath or punitive political policies that have been the norm for so many revolutionary movements.
Instead, he worked closely with many groups and individuals, both black and white, to engineer a mostly peaceful transfer of power and to keep South Africa prospering.
He deserves a place in the pantheon of great leaders who overturned unjust political systems — along with Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and even our own Founding Fathers.