Sixteen years ago today (May 10, 1994) Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa. Listen to his inauguration speech:
As I think about this event, I think about Mandela’s freedom struggles, and his extraordinary leadership that made this event possible. The inspiration and lessons from his journey and leadership are best captured for me in two quotations. First, First, the closing words of his biography, The Long Walk to Freedom:
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
Secondly, the famous words that Mandela actually never said, but are often attributed to his inaugural address. The words are from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. They are fitting words to honor and dedicate to this great son of the land – father of the rainbow nation:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Happy Birthday South Africa. Happy Anniversary Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (and a happy 92nd birthday coming up: July 18).