Choir Notes

Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Heidi S. Swinton

When Nelson Mandela strode onto a Johannesburg field at the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup wearing the shirt of the largely white national team, the entire stadium was stunned. Here was the new president of South Africa—the first black man ever to hold that office—wearing the green shirt that for millions of blacks symbolized the indignities of white rule. But Mandela saw the national rugby team as an opportunity to unite and heal his fractured country, and he had called for blacks in townships across the nation to wear green shirts in support of the contest as well. 

As he congratulated his nation’s rugby players, the stadium of more than 60,000 erupted into a chant: “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!” 
That day South Africa won much more than a rugby match.

History is marked by great leaders whose moral influence has steered the future of nations. In that list of luminaries stand people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. While they lived on different ends of the earth, each perceived an injustice and chose to do something about it. They championed the value of all people, seeking what Mandela described as a “democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."1 It wasn’t easy—Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his efforts—but remarkably, those years produced a man who sought peace, compassion, and understanding, not retribution and revenge. 

This is not the work of a select few. Each of us can reset history, even if it’s only our own. Each of us can champion peace and harmony, even if it’s only in our family or workplace. Mandela’s leadership reminds us that true success comes from humility, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, and most of all, patience. He spoke for all of us when he said: “I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my walk is not yet ended."2

1 In “Nelson Mandela Quotes: A Collection of Memorable Words from Former South African President,” cbsnews.com/news/nelson-mandela-quotes-a-collection-of-memorable-words-from-former-south-african-president.
2 In “Nelson Mandela Quotes.”

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