There are currently 6 billion people living on Earth today. Most go about their daily dealings with little concern for others as they face the task of acquiring food, clothing, and shelter. The world seems too cold to fathom. Too crazy to embrace. Few choose to inspire. Even less pick the path of persistence in fighting for freedom, justice, and equality for all mankind. But this was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. A visionary born of royal Thembu ancestry into the Xhosa clan on July 18, 1918, Mandela grew up with his two sisters in the village of Qunu in South Africa. He tended herds of cattle as a child, while growing into a young man who attended the University of Fort Hare.
His proactive pursuit of political progressiveness didn't come immediately. Despite befriending several fellow students who were members of the African National Congress (ANC), he declined involvement to study law at the University of Witwatersand. But as a lawyer living in Johannesburg, witnessing racial inequality from the powers that be, Mandela's politics of anti-colonialism began to take form. And he eventually joined the ANC, becoming the founder of the Youth League.
In 1948, things changed. Afrikaner nationalists of the National Party begin implementing their apartheid policy. And Nelson, taking the helm of leadership, loyal and aggressive in fighting the power, was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities. He and ANC comrades were arrested repeatedly, struggling by any means to save their people. In return, Mandela received love. Loyal praise from the hearts and souls of his South African people. Love that eventually expanded to a unique connection and bond with his second wife, Winnie Madikizela, who he married in 1958.
During the early days of struggle, Nelson was steadfastly committed to a policy of non-violent protesting. But peaceful marches without result, fueled an angry frustration that eventually led to him co-founding the militant Umkhonto we Size (MK) along with the South African Communist Party in 1961. A year later, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
Avoiding the death penalty, and sentenced to life in prison, Mandela spent 27 years on a prison island, where he wrote his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom." But outside the bars, a movement was growing colored as a rainbow collective of international support that lead to his release in 1990.
Despite walking free, Mandela realized times had changed, things were worse, and people were angrier and more violent in the midst of South African upheaval. Mandela, using his natural ability to unite, became president of the African National Congress, working with president F.W. de Klerk to abolish racism. He arranged for the country's first multi-racial election in 1994 in which he became president of a land once ran by those who had imprisoned him.
Although he served just one term, Mandela used his four years in office to create a new constitution, along with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, dedicated to investigating past human rights abuses. He used his presidential powers to help commit millions to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. After office, consciously choosing to not seek a second presidential term, he continued selfless efforts on behalf of the downtrodden under the umbrella of the Nelson Mandela Foundation where the ills of poverty and HIV/AIDS were addressed. He was bestowed with over 250 prestigious honors including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin.
The bold and outspoken manner in which Nelson Mandela spoke to power continued after his retirement from public office. He'd share harsh words with the United States and Great Britain during the first Gulf War. He called out America for committing more unspeakable acts of violence throughout the world than any other nation on Earth. He even took Mozambiquan dictator Robert Mugabe to task, personally attempting to advise him to step down.
Working to save the world, Mandela rubbed elbows with the likes of President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, and would collaborate with Bishop Desmond Tutu on multiple occasions. Nelson was a living icon, maintaining a status of reverence throughout the world like no living person of African decent since Martin Luther King, Jr.
On December 5, 2013, he succumbed to complications caused by an ongoing lung infection. Passing at 95-years-old, Mandela − who was fittingly called Tata (Father) and by his tribal name "Madiba" − will forever serve as a sterling example of a man who was a steadfast warrior dedicated to uplifting the downtrodden with peace, patience, and persistence.