In the coming days, we will hear much about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who died Thursday at the age of 95. YNN's Bill Carey said Americans may not have followed Mandela's career as closely as others, but have learned important lessons from the man his people referred to as "Mandiba".
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Several thousand miles away, Americans watched the unfolding story in South Africa, aware of a devastating system of racial division called apartheid and aware of a voice heard from behind bars, Nelson Mandela.
There was a collective sense of shock when South Africa's entrenched white leadership shifted course in the 1990s, freeing Mandela from prison, and ending apartheid. It cleared the way for Mandela's election as President and changed the outlook for millions of those who had been victims of oppression.
Professor Tim Eatman leads a study abroad program for Syracuse University students in South Africa. He said Mandela's impact on the people of that nation runs deep.
“Not only the freedom that you don't have to present your passbook,” Eatman said. “Not only the freedom that you can avoid having your women abused and your men emasculated. But a free consciousness,1428 that can surface and can be celebrated in a community context.”
One of the most important lessons left behind by Nelson Mandela came as he took the reins of power in his native South Africa.
Rather than turn on those who had led the apartheid system, Mandela developed a system that allowed a full airing of the injustices, while avoiding the next step in the cycle, violence and revenge.
Philosopher Samuel Gorovitz said it was a unique lesson for the world.
“We must try to understand what it is like to be the other person and what might motivate the other person and empathize with the other person, and then it becomes possible to seek common ground and to respect the irreconcilable differences,” Gorovitz said.
“Some of your own people may say you're an ‘Uncle Tom’ or you're a traitor, right? But you have a larger vision of what it means to harness the possibility of our collective living and loving together,” Eatman said.
"He has shown us that something is possible that we might not have realized could even happen,” Gorovitz said. “There's no better proof that something's possible than that it's actual.”
Mandela, the experts said, is a rarity on the world scene. He is a leader who created a path for a nation to come together.