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Last week, we lost nothing short of an icon in Nelson Mandela. This man single-handedly spurred a movement of change, resurrection and reconstruction in a deeply wounded and segregated South Africa. Despite serving a prison sentence of 27 years and being released into another hostile and racist environment, he was able to garner the trust of the South African populous and was elected president in 1994.
Oftentimes, we rely on the influence of one person to drag us along the slow process to change. Domestically, Martin Luther King Jr. was the saving grace in the civil rights movement. In India, it was Gandhi, and South Africa had Mandela.
Agents of change have the capacity to radically alter the attitudes of millions. While the change is never immediate, it arrives at some point and hopefully with the intent to stay. But the power of one cannot be mistaken for the power of all.
These leaders were willing to die for their causes. These leaders were willing to sacrifice themselves for the truthful evolution of their respective nations. They hoped in turn that the world would watch, and we did. But watching can only take us so far.
Mandela has shown us not only the ability of one person to harness a vision and enact substantial change, but that the power within oneself is the catalyst to be able to have such an impact on others. Overcoming his own extraordinaryexperiences and obstacles, Mandela gave witness to the strength it takes to grow from those trials and remain steadfast in one’s beliefs. One of his most quoted pieces of wisdom, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” speaks to the fact that it takes perseverance and courage to believe in one’s own abilities and ideas to see them through. In our instant gratification culture, reminders such as these to pursue what matters most seem to be few and far between. With Mandela’s passing, we have lost a great source of this truth, and should hold on to the example he gave with his life’s work.

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