The Day I Never Met Nelson Mandela

I want to brag about meeting Madiba.  After all, wasn’t I there in the photos, just behind the Spice Girls? Didn’t we do one of his little impromptu jigs?  And did we not shake hands that day in Brixton?  As I recall, I even helped Mandela hone some of his best quotes, like these.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

 If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Alas, the sad truth is that, unlike the rest of the world, I have no personal reminiscences of Mandela to share with you, broadcast, or tweet.

The closest I ever got was holding a placard.   It was decades ago, when thousands of students filled the streets and chanted ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.  Some were committed anti-apartheid campaigners, like the group who held a four-year vigil in Trafalgar Square, but others weren’t.  Looking back, a few of my fellow students probably had little idea of who Mandela was.  Still, it was a lot more fun than going to lectures.

I doubt many people imagined then quite how world-changing Mandela might one day become.   So is he the new Messiah, as some suggest? Mandela in Parliament Square

Until history answers that one, I offer several points of contrast:

There are very few buildings and streets named after Jesus.

Jesus never got married or wrote an autobiography.

Mandela wore amazing shirts.

While Mandela and Jesus were both keen on love, forgiveness, and food for all, there is no record of Mandela ever walking on water.  If he had, he might not have had to wait for the boat from Robben Island.

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.

A person dies twice:  once when their heart stops, and again when they are forgotten.   As long as we never forget this wonderful man and all he stood for, he will always be with us.

Mandela plaque WestminsterRelated articles

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