Nelson Mandela Died Yesterday

Nelson Mandela died yesterday. I never knew him personally, but somehow, his passing touched me-–just as it did the world, I suspect. In the quiet remorse of the news, I thought about what he accomplished and what he taught the world.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I thought about how “diversity and inclusiveness” have found their way into our cultural jargon, and truly, much progress has been made in this arena; yet every day, we still find examples of bias on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. It seems that, from the earliest age, we distinguish "us" versus "them"-- and must learn the values of compassion and acceptance for all.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

I thought about the value of education, and how, for many individuals, it is the critical factor that can narrow the gap of social inequity…. And I thought about how we, as medical educators, mentors, and scholars, can make a tremendous difference in furthering the cause of social justice by what we do every day.

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

And then I thought about research, and how through a series of baby steps, we get closer and closer to answering fundamental questions…. Only to find more questions yet unanswered. I thought about tenacity, “rising every time we fall”, and “keeping one’s head toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward”….

And finally, I thought about mortality…. the fact that, at the end of the day, we each will die….. and I wondered what my legacy will be.  I often think of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on what it is to have succeeded in life:

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived...”

There is no question that Mandela succeeded…. the question now is how each of us will make our contribution to the world to do the same.


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