Today is one of the most tragic days I've lived to witness. The South African peace advocate, Nelson Mandela, known to many as Madiba, has just passed away after passing five months in a critical health condition. His life serves as an inspiration to those who want to improve the world through peace instead of force.
He took upon the task of eliminating the legacy of apartheid from social and political life in South Africa, and went on to become the first black president of the country. 27 years of his life were spent in prison, where, around the world, he became known as a bringer of peace. There was an international campaign which lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990.
What's admirable is that even in the face of adversity, he prevented the use of violence. He was inspired by figures such as Mohandas Gandhi and Karl Marx, which provoked criticism from Right-Wing politicians and supporters. During his revolutionary acts, which were completely peaceful, and unsuccessful at first, he had to betray his principles and request arms to make a statement, which goes to show that even the best have to get their hands dirty sometimes. In fact, as soon as he found out that the resistance was creating violence, he set out to negotiate with the government to end it.
Then, in 1994, after having gone through hell, he became president, and although he had gained many friends he felt alone. He was a simple man, donating one third of his earnings to the Nelson Mandela Children's fund. He also took upon the task of national reconciliation and increased welfare spending a few times. Although the country isn't perfect, he certainly improved it to a great extent.
He was known for criticizing the greater powers, for example, the intervention in Kosovo or the war in Iraq; he didn't think it was in those countries' rights to police the rest of the world. He is a man whose legacy will forever be remembered, among the ranks of great pacifists like Gandhi, Luther King, and all those who have come before him advocating for the use of reason and not force to solve problems.
I see him great in the sense that Ernesto Guevara was great, the sense that education is something that can change the world for the better, as, these men knew, those who are educated cannot be manipulated as easily as others. This is important to prevent a government from becoming totalitarian or otherwise oppressive.
Madiba, may you rest in peace and may the world follow your example.