The world is grieving the death of Nelson Mandela.
The former president of South Africa was one of those seismic leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. whose uncommon strength and nonviolent courage led to the peaceful end of apartheid. The unrest that could have shaken South Africa didn’t happen because of Mandela, that country’s first black president.
Unlike King who was assassinated in 1968 when he was only 39 years old, Mandela got to live a long, fruitful life, dying at the age of 95. King would have been a mere 84 years old today had he lived.
People of the world got to benefit from Mandela’s wisdom. Like King in the United States, we can only hope that South Africa set aside July 18, Mandela’s birthday, as a national holiday in his honor.
President Barack Obama was right in his comments Thursday about Mandela: “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela ever again.”
People like King and Mandela — both Nobel Peace Prize winners — were forged in the hell fires of racism and inequality. They became the tempered steel leaders of our times.
Obama also said Mandela “no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”
Somewhere on the planet, an editorial cartoonist is drawing a picture of Mandela being welcomed into heaven by King, saying, “thanks and well-done!”