-Nelson Mandela, July 8, 1918 – December 5, 2013

(The Economist)

Of Nelson Mandela’s many achievements, two stand out. First, he was the world’s most inspiring example of fortitude, magnanimity and dignity in the face of oppression, serving more than 27 years in prison for his belief that all men and women are created equal. In a country in which the myth of racial superiority was enshrined in law, he never doubted his right, and that of all his compatriots, to equal treatment. His charisma was evident from his youth. He was a born leader who feared nobody, debased himself before no one and never lost his sense of humor.

Second, and little short of miraculous, was the way in which he engineered and oversaw South Africa’s transformation from a byword for nastiness and narrowness into, at least in intent, a rainbow nation in which people, no matter what their color, were entitled to be treated with respect. That South Africa did, in the end, move with relatively little bloodshed to become a multiracial free-market democracy was indeed a near-miracle for which the whole world must thank him.

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