As Nelson Mandela lies critically ill in hospital while the world waits fearfully for news of his progress, South Africa will soon be celebrating his 95th birthday on 18th July. I had the privilege of hearing Nelson Mandela speak in Parliament in Cape Town in 1995, soon after the end of Apartheid. It was a moving experience for me and I found he was such an amazingly gifted speaker who spoke for hours without any notes.
“That was pretty smart of you to have your jailers come to the Inauguration and all of that, but let me ask you something.” I said, “Didn’t you really hate them for what they did?”
He said, “Those things I would have to give to them, and I simply decided not to give them away.”
And so – so I said to him, I said, “Well, what about when you were getting out of prison?” I said, “The day you got out of prison in 1990, it was Sunday morning, and I got my daughter up early in the morning, and I took her down to the kitchen, and I turned on the television, and she was just a little girl then, and I sat her up on the kitchen counter. And I said, ‘Chelsea, I want you to watch this. This is one of the most important things you’ll ever see in your life.’ “
And I said, “I watched you walk down that dirt road to freedom.” I said, “Now, when you were walking down there, and you realized how long you had been in their prison, didn’t you hate them then? Didn’t you feel some hatred?” He said, “Yes, I did a little bit.” He said, “I felt that.” And he said, “Frankly, I was kind of afraid, too, because I hadn’t been free in so long.”
But he said, “As I felt the anger rising up, I thought to myself, ‘They have already had you for 27 years. And if you keep hating them, they’ll have you again.’ And I said, ‘I want to be free. And so I let it go. I let it go.”
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