The Long Walk to Freedom is one of the best books I have read in my life. It is one book I recommend to anyone – young and old who is interested in the origin of greatness. Over the years, many writers have explored the topic of greatness in an attempt to explain the qualities that define great men and women. While the lists may vary from writer to writer, one quality stays the same – great people always take on tasks that are greater than themselves. I can submit that the journey of greatness begins when one person, from wherever part of the world, decides to overcome limitations and pursue a goal that inspires hope in others.
The author of the book – Long Walk to Freedom needs no introduction. Nelson Mandela’s life ticks all the boxes of greatness. In him, we find with a man of purpose, vision and will; a man ready to pay the ultimate price to gain freedom for his people. This is not an attempt to write an updated biography. That would be certainly be an exercise in futility. An effort will nonetheless be made to touch on the topic of inspirational leadership. My hope is that a reader might be inspired to believe that ‘little’ efforts with noble intent can make a big difference.
Today makes it a one month since the celebration of his 1ooth post-humus anniversary in South Africa. I was not a part of the event but I could tell by the attendance and buzz on social media that the event was a colourful one. I followed closely with the activities of President Barack Obama through his foundation to engage with 200 emerging leaders from 44 African countries. President Obama delivered a powerful speech at the Nelson Mandela Lecture; one I will not forget in a hurry. He made a powerful statement on how Nelson Mandela inspired him when he said, “Madiba’s light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late ‘70s he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to reexamine his own priorities, could make me consider the small role I might play in bending the arc of the world towards justice”
That statement resonates with every ounce of validity that by living for a purpose greater than oneself, we would be spreading the light of inspiration to people that we cannot see and may never meet.
I must at this point share a personal story that further validates the Obama story. When I made the decision to read the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, little did I know that I was unconsciously being schooled by a man who I never had the chance to meet in person. Through his life’s journey as documented in his book, I have learnt a few lessons I will gladly share. A man who chooses to stay true to what he believes is right is never on the wrong side; he may not be on the popular side but he is not on the wrong side. Greatness is not sexist or racist; where we come from has nothing to do with our ability to be great. If we pursue noble dreams that are bigger than us, we can be great. I have also realized to be a big life truth that greatness has never had anything to with the size of purpose but a lot to do with the intent. What you do is not as important as why you do it.
The world would continue to celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. His story will continue to be a beacon of hope from which young leaders of today can draw inspiration. I share the same view with the great Winston Churchill when he expressed: “there comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which he was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfil his mission – a moment for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he will find greatness. It is his finest”.
There has never been a better time than now.