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Celebrate Nelson Mandela Now, and Also Later

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A frail 94-year-old Nelson Mandela has again been admitted to hospital. On a prior occasion a year ago, I felt it important to take pen to paper to write about this exceptional and unique man whose achievements should -- and, hopefully, will -- be well-understood, admired and inspire many, and for a very long time.

My already high respect for Mr. Mandela has only grown in the last year. During this period, I have gained even greater insights into his approach. I have also deepened even more my understanding of the context in which he delivered for South Africa and beyond.

Those unfamiliar with his accomplishments -- and those who underestimate the odds he faced and the adversity he conquered in such a humble and effective manner -- need only witness how, after an incredibly encouraging start, the Arab Spring has stumbled and disappointed so many.

Countries like Egypt demonstrate vividly the difficulties societies face in completing their revolutions, no matter how genuine, justified and legitimate they are.

The well-being of historic transitions, especially those fueled by massive grass root support (as was the case in South Africa and, later, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, etc.), depends critically on credible and visionary leadership.

Yes important advances in social media allow movements us to overcome coordination challenges in remarkable ways. But nations still need political leaders to convert the energy and drive that topple repressive regimes into the unified dynamism that builds a better and lasting future.

They also look to them to reconcile the legacies of an ugly and violent yesterday with the hope of a brighter and peaceful tomorrow.

Mr. Mandela managed this in the most difficult of circumstances. In spearheading the most critical of all revolutionary pivots, he inspired his nation "to forgive but not forget."

Throughout the years, his accomplishment and dedication repeatedly astonished the "experts." And so many were dumbfounded by how he delivered a relatively peaceful transition in a highly polarized and potentially revenge-seeking context.

Yet, despite all this, too many of those who face similarly challenging revolutionary pivots today -- and too many of those who support them and wish them well -- are so caught up in the weeds that they fail to pose a simple yet potentially-enlightening question: "What would Nelson Mandela do?"

This phenomenon seemingly is not limited to those involved in historic transitions.

In reading the comments on last year's Mandela piece, I was particularly struck by those suggesting that I should have waited until Mr. Mandela's passing. "Save it for the obituary" was how one succinct and direct comment put it.

NO, we should not wait until then to recognize the amazing contributions of this historic figure.

NOW is the time to understand better, admire further, and celebrate more what Mr. Mandela offers the world.

So please find below the text/link to last year's piece. And please join me in conveying to Mr. Mandela our best regards and in wishing him a speedy recovery.

Thank you very much.

The World Wishes Mandela Well and Needs Him