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The End of A Long Walk

Updated on December 8, 2013

The Man Called Madiba

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela's Autobiography, Written in 1995 and The Basis for The Movie.


An Unlikely Influence

I'm also a halfway-decent photographer and likely the only person who can find former WWE star Jeff Hardy and former South African President Nelson Mandela equally admirable.
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Only I could find a sports-entertainer, known for putting his body on the line, and a man who would spend 27 years of his life in prison for working against a policy of segregation and become a symbol of resistance and reconciliation. I always thought that my friend, or the web, would report that Jeff Hardy had overdosed, been in an accident or even killed himself.

But on Thursday, December 5, Nelson Mandela's walk to freedom ended. He would outlive P.W Botha, the man seen as his captor, and two of his main critics; Thatcher and Reagan.He would see his country host two major sports events; the rugby and soccer world cups, and become a hero to millions around the world.

I remember sitting in my house watching Mandela walk out of prison, though neither one remembers, I insist one of my sisters asked "What are we watching?", my answer. "History"! I would watch him work to bring his country to grips with its past. I would borrow his autobiography from my college's library and read under the idea that one learns from the best. I would leaf through a book of resistance posters time and time again.

The Legacy

Mandela's legacy will be complex. Melissa Harris-Perry made note of how much like Martin Luther King, or even Christ (I have the book Zealot on my Nook and will be reading that over Lent), the more radical aspects of his life and ideas may be put in the shadows. Indeed, most people will remember the Mandela after his release, the grandfather-like figure. His very presence seeming to be able to calm anyone. That presence would be an asset during South Africa's efforts to transition from apartheid to democracy, and Mandela's single term as president.

To Americans, especially African-Americans, Mandela will be see in the tradition of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders. South Africa's struggles paralleled and even dovetailed in some cases with the American Civil Rights movement. To the world, he may seem like Gandhi, a sort of symbol of resistance and commitment.

To me, he will be a symbol of the power of peace and calm. When I mentioned the odd pairing of Jeff Hardy and Nelson Mandela among my heroes to a co-worker the day Mandela died, I explained that it was a matter of knowing when to be which one. There are times when I need to be that calmer presence and cooler head, and times when I need to put it all on the line. I'll always be working on learning that!


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