"But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended." -Nelson Mandela from Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography 1996, page 202
Mr. Mandela please get well. And that which ails you may it be a momentary thing. Because my trusty paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word moment in its first definition as a minute portion of time. So what does ail you may that soon pass.
Now in using my dictionary again, the third definition of the word moment is defined as importance, with synonyms of words of consequence and significance. And those moments of importance and or significance it cannot be argued, that you've had plenty so far.
In early 1943, it all started for you when you enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was after listening to the words of a colleague Gaur Radebe, "It is important to the future of our struggle in this country for you to become a lawyer..." as said in Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography. And so you studied, while encountering those white lecturers strongly opposing black students, and racism among white students.
For before entering law school you also worked as an articled clerk at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman where you met Mr. Gaur Radebe, and also a man who would become your lifelong dear friend Mr. Walter Sisulu, who helped you get the job. And it was at Mr. Sisulu's house one day, where you had met a nurse named Evelyn Mase, whom you had married on October 5, 1944.
Another forthcoming meaningful moment happened in your life in the month of August of 1952, as you and a man named Oliver Tambo will open the first African law practice in South Africa. This of course was to service the needs of fellow Africans desperately needing legal help. All the while, you were also partaking in anti-apartheid activities.
Those anti-apartheid activities were not without heavy cost, for in the winter of 1964 you had arrived at Robben Island to spend the next 18 of 27 years of your life in prison. After those 18 years, you were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, to then Victor Verster Prison until your release on February 11, 1990. Those in South Africa and those around the world, were joyous.
Then on June 23, 1990 during a 12 day visit to the U.S., after having toured Africa followed by stops in Sweden, France and England and while accompanied with your second wife Winnie Mandela, you arrived at a luncheon held in your honor at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Your gracious hosts were both the late Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy and the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. For the Kennedy family had long been opposed to apartheid as far back as June 6, 1966 when the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy arrived at the University of Cape Town, South Africa to deliver his "Ripple of Hope" speech.
Two days later on June 25, 1990, another meaningful moment had happened for you. For on that day you stood nearby U.S. President George H.W. Bush on the South Lawn at the White House. During the arrival statements from both of you the U.S. president spoke first, speaking about you as, "A man who embodies the hopes of millions." All captured on C-SPAN.
Then two years later in February 1992, you attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, along with then President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk of the National Party. As a member of the ANC (African National Congress) party, once you arrived back in South Africa Mr. Mandela was when you were faced with a choice. Do we nationalize or privatize? "Chaps, we have to choose. We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment," from Mandela, The Authorized Biography by Anthony Sampson.
Then on December 10, 1993 in Oslo, Norway you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk who took part in talks to end apartheid before your prison release. Yet in the following year on April 27, 1994, then at the age of 75, you voted for the first time in your life in a democratic election in South Africa. To which on May 10, 1994, you were inaugurated as the first black South African President, promising to serve one term.
On October 5, 1994 as president of South Africa, you were warmly honored by another head of state, U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House news conference. For it was there that the U.S. president had stated the United States would, "...to help heal the legacies of apartheid, American loans will be used to guarantee nearly a half-billion dollars of new housing in South Africa." Also President Clinton went further to state that U.S. dollars would be there to help bring electricity to the townships and to support basic health care among other topics of concern.
That promise of basic health care would be especially important to you Mr. Mandela, for on February 3, 1997 you were back at the World Economic Forum in Davos attending a session on HIV/AIDS. Then in the next month on March 17, 1997 you were visited by Princess Diana in Cape Town, South Africa to further address the threat of AIDS in South Africa.
Another meaningful moment happened for you on March 27, 1998. For that was the day when U.S. President Bill Clinton stood with you in prison cell No.5 in section B on Robben Island. For Robben Island had been the worst of the three prisons of your 27 years of imprisonment, as both of you as heads of state from behind bars in a prison cell looked out to the prison courtyard.
Then months after the end of your term as president of South Africa, on December 9, 1999 the health issue is back once more, as you met with then Microsoft CEO/Chairman Bill Gates. Both of you discussed global health held at the University of Washington, Seattle. For its known that also the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since founded in 1994, have donated millions of dollars in health care services to Africa and around the world.
On December 6, 2002 that day, a meaningful moment was mutual, for you met American talk show host Oprah Winfrey at a ceremony at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, South Africa. Following that less than three years later in May 2005, you will have met then Sen. Barack Obama from Illinois visiting you in a hotel room in Washington DC, who would later become the first black president of the United States.
Long a huge admirer of you, Richard Branson, British businessman founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, on July 18, 2007 initiated a meaningful moment for you to coincide on your 89th birthday. For also on that day he officially launched an international band called The Elders in Johannesburg, South Africa. The band consists of former world leaders with no vested interest, whose mission is to bring diplomatic solutions to the world's most dire problems. Such members being former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson among them.
Then on July 11, 2010, with your third wife Graca Machel at your side, the world was happy to see you in attendance at the 2010 World Cup finale at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. And the thunderous applause among the sound of vuvuzelas made that evident.
And in the years that followed Mr. Mandela, you've also been busy attending to matters at your Nelson Mandela Foundation and your gardening. It is my desire that you get well so that you may continue to do so, and to have many more meaningful moments. Many sunrises are ahead and as you have said; your long walk is not yet ended.