I will remember exactly where I was when it happened: on United Airlines Flight 3570 from Chicago to Atlanta this night. When we touched wheels at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I turned on my iPhone and the first thing I heard was the famous ESPN Sports Center chime and a note that Nelson Mandela passed away at 95.
It came as no surprise to me that ESPN would have a message about Mandela’s passing. The story of Nelson Mandela touches every aspect of life. Of The World.
For those of you who don’t know who Nelson Mandela was, he was jailed for 27 years as a political prisoner and for standing up to South Africa’s racist apartheid government, then when released from jail, dramatically rose to become President Of South Africa.
On Mandela, President Obama said this:
I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.
To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us. His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most. And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.
Nelson Mandela is the savior of freedom. In fighting racism and a government that advanced it, he not only achieved his own freedom, but helped a nation and the World understand what it means to be truly free.