“There is no passion to be found playing small ― in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Nelson Rolihlala Mandela (1918- )
Born into a family of royal counselors of the Xhosa people of South Africa’s Cape Province, Mandela, whose given name Rolihlala means “troublemaker”, was called Nelson by his British influenced teachers only when he began to attend school. He studied law and later joined the African National Congress rising to the presidency of its youth league in 1947. Later a member of the ANC’s executive council he was arrested and jailed numerous times culminating in his conviction for treason and his incarceration from 1962 to 1990. Even from prison his example and leadership helped overthrow the whites-only government, and he is credited with ending apartheid without the widely expected bloodbath. In the first South African election in which blacks were allowed to vote he was elected President and served in that role from 1994 to 1999, overseeing policies of national reconciliation and reconstruction. Described as the father of South African democracy, Mandela has in recent years served as counselor and elder statesman, receiving multiple international recognitions including the Medal of Freedom (US), the Order of Canada, and the Order of Merit (UK). He is currently hospitalized and in failing health.