Doug Parsons on Nelson Mandela

Doug Parsons, our Dean of Faculty, opened chapel with a reflection on the passing of Nelson Mandela. I found his thoughts particularly poignant and worth sharing:

I’ve been asked to say a word on the passing of one of the truly great historical figures of our time, Nelson Mandela, who died last night at the age of 95. Last summer, I stood before Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island, the place where Mandela was held captive from 1964-1980. It was about six feet square, with a mat on the floor for sleeping, a small table with a drawer for the few personal items he was allowed, and a red tin can for a toilet. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and it must have crossed his mind many times that he might never get out. And yet, when he finally emerged from prison in 1990, after 27 years, he was somehow stronger and wiser. I had the good fortune to spend an evening last summer with a man who’d been in prison with Mandela from 1964-1971. When I asked what Mandela was like, he said that when Mandela walked into a room, he radiated a moral force, so that every head turned towards him and acknowledged him as the leader. Mandela is as important to world history as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he fought a very similar fight as Dr. King to create justice and equality for non-whites in South Africa. And while we mourn his passing, there is much to celebrate, and I’d like to encourage each of you to find out about this great man and to learn from his example. 

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