Today I had the great honor of saying an opening prayer at the National Cathedral's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the most important political leader of the 20th century. This was an honor, not only because of Mandela's stature on the world's stage, but because he was someone I admired very deeply and personally.
This week brought the passing of Nelson Mandela. He was a man whose towering authority derived from his relentless devotion to humanity at its most basic level. While locked away for 27 years, the rage of injustice was supplanted by a willingness to build bridges to those who'd imprisoned him. After his release in 1990, his first goal was reconciliation, not retribution. "The whites are our fellow South Africans," he said the next morning. "We want them to feel safe." And after becoming the first democratically elected black president of South Africa, that unremitting dedication to what's best in us continued. "He no longer belongs to us," said President Obama upon learning of his death, "he belongs to the ages." But let's not relegate him to the ages just yet -- we desperately need his spirit of transcendence and compassion right now. As he wrote in 1995: "It always seems impossible until it's done." Rest in Peace, Madiba.