Saturday, June 29, 2013

Paying Tribute: Nelson Mandela

Caryl recalls her recent trip to South Africa and the ex-president who inspired her 

President Obama and his family arrived in South Africa today but he won’t be seeing Nelson Mandela, who remains critically ill in a hospital in Pretoria. Mandela is one of Obama’s heroes as well as mine. I made it to South Africa last December, part of my Hillary Clinton-like tour of the continent—10  planes in 11 days. (It's a lot of ground to cover!) Madiba, as he is called by those who love him, was also in the hospital then with a lung infection. There was much speculation at the time as there is now that the end might be near for the 94-year-old statesman and revolutionary who helped end apartheid in South Africa.

My then 7-year-old daughter cried when she saw this picture of people lining up to vote in the first free election in '94.
I only spent about 24 hours in the shockingly beautiful city of Cape Town. I didn’t get to Robben Island where Mandela had been imprisoned for 27 years. (The Obamas did.)The boat broke down right when my friend Betsy and I were about to board. We did visit one of the townships, and we toured the District Six Museum where we saw first hand the country's heartbreaking history of segration. While I was at the museum, I bought a single postcard that I liked too much to send to anyone.  When I arrived at my country house this afternoon, I saw the postcard on the dresser leaning up against pictures of the women in my family-- from my grandmother's wedding day to the first portrait of my newborn daughter--a kind of accidental tableaux.

The postcard has no breathtaking photography of Table Mountain or the 
Victoria and Alfred waterfront--just white letters on a green background.  The words are a quote from an address Mandela gave on February 11, 1990 in Cape Town, the day of his release from prison: 

"I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and sisters of our nation.
You are the rock-hard foundation of our struggle. " 

Thank you, Madiba--and right back at you.


  1. "Right back at you" indeed. He has been an inspiration to so many of us and you've expressed my own feelings about him exactly.

  2. Thanks, Judith. Nice to hear from you. Leadership is acts as well as words. The world need more leaders like Mandela.