Peace activist Desmond Tutu has urged South Africans to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday by following his unifying example of tolerance that brought together a divided country.
“The greatest gift our nation could possibly give ‘uTata’ (father) Nelson Mandela for his 94th birthday this week would be to emulate his magnanimity and grace.“
As I watched Archbishop Tutu, I reflected of a question recently asked of me, “Which famous world leader would I love to have dinner?” Well, I once shared a wonderful conversation with the late Stephen Covey on a coast-to-coast flight, met Bobby Knight and Astronaut Gary Lovell. I shook hands with Wayne Dyer, met former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and few Hollywood actors crossed my path. I once had dinner with Kelly Hu and marveled at the James Bond movie in production down the street from my residence.
Still, whom would I love to have dinner with? ‘Nelson Mandela.’
I chose Mandela not because my own personal journey has found me retracing the anti-Apartheid steps in Soweto, suffering tears at ‘Ground Zero,’ holding the hands of tsunami victims passing from this world and writing letters to families of those I supported in Africa and South America. But paraphrasing former President Clinton, “He may have been President of South African, but he always was human first.” Honest and sincere.
And that’s the lesson for us all: be human first. It’s been said Christ became human and sincere. Buddha overflowed with love and compassion. Dr. Martin Luther King was filled with humanity and forgiveness. Each of these leaders embodied the true spirit of living: giving to one another in a fulfilling, compassionate and humane way.
And while human beings advanced significantly on the evolutionary ladder, many leaders, business, professional and otherwise really seem to lack positive traits. From a political perspective, Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad classically fits this model. In business, a “pervasively polluted” culture at HSBC allowed the bank to act as financier to clients moving shadowy funds from the world’s most dangerous and secretive corners, including Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. And of course many, many religious leaders have to my utter contempt list.
But as a society, there should be a way that honestly differentiates things we are proud of and things we are ashamed. These should be humane qualities, the very nature of which that should be cherished. We should be able to develop our mind and enable our thinking that leads this world to a better future.
Picking up from Mandela, there are things we all can do. Each of us has a kinetic power to be kind and compassionate, ensuring our actions don’t detrimentally hurt another. All of us, including me, have made mistakes. But we can strive to be of service, be mindful in understanding, showing kindness, honesty and humility. These are the worthy human values we should be proud to acquire.
President Clinton said, “We worked together as presidents and even after we left office we continued working together to improve education of the children worldwide in order for them to share the future.” Yeah Clinton had his faults. I won’t argue that here in this forum. But more importantly, true humanity always serves, is always humble and always in love.
And by acquiring these values, we become very Christ like, Buddha , very holy.
Happy Birthday Mr. Mandela.