When I think of Dr. King, I think of his courage, vision, strength, humanity, and most importantly, his perseverance. Dr. King’s perseverance transformed him into a legendary leader but it was his challenge to each one of us that sets him apart—a challenge in this day, in this hour, to “take up the cause of freedom”.
This element of Dr. King’s life is something that hopefully each of us has incorporated into our daily lives. Perseverance breeds success; and it is his perseverance that enabled Dr. King to achieve his dream.
Dr. King knew that his dream—this movement towards civil rights—would begin a new chapter for America—a chapter we are still writing today; a chapter steeped in the hopes of “little black boys and black girls [joining hands] with little white boys and white girls” for true opportunity and equality.
We celebrate this day different from any other American holiday because we use it not only to recall the legacy of the civil rights era and the man who lived and died for the true freedom of all Americans, but also to assess how we are doing in making The Dream real. Like Dr. King, we are not just writing a chapter in the life of the African-American community, we are the authors of the book of life in America.
I know that if Dr. King were here today he would encourage us to persevere in the face of tragedies like the Trayvon Martin shooting, or efforts to roll back hard fought gains in voting and civil rights. He would remind us that “freedom is not free” and the price we must pay keeps the dream alive; that success does not come without sacrifice if you want the dream to live for future generations
And that’s the easy part because the dream lives in each one of us. Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from The Grio)
For me, as for most Americans, the words of Martin Luther King have been and will always be inspiring.
In my hometown, as many other cities, the life and accomplishments Martin Luther King are celebrated, in may different ways, by many different segments of our community. Later this month, for the Jewish community and for all who wish to attend, Temple Adath Israel, will be offering a uniquely special remembrance of not only the life of Martin Luther King, but also pausing to remember the contributions of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel whose life is intertwined with Dr. King’s.
Rabbi Heschel, met King in 1963. King asked Heschel to help lead “prayer services” for civil rights during a march in Alabama. Rabbi Heschel had to receive permission from the Jewish theological seminary where he was teaching, A few days later, the Rabbi called the seminary to ask for money to bail him out of jail. They asked, aren’t you suppose to be leading prayer services for civil rights. Rabbi Heschel said he was doing just that, “his legs” were praying. For eleven years, Temple Adath Israel has acknowledged the life cycle coincidence in time of these two great men” with a special Shabbat service of righteousness and peace.
Rabbi Marc Kline of Temple Adath Israel, told me “Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not about about racial equality but the divine dignity equal in every human. King’s fight was for social justice, economic justice, racial equality, anti-war, and more”. Rabbi Kline went on to say “Oppression is when one person asserts power over another, thus diminishing their dignity. King’s dream was for equality. Prayer is what we do, not only what we say”. In a similar vein, a book, I once read entitled, “God is the Good We Do” echoes what Rabbi Kline is saying. With these thoughts in mind, is it not appropriate for the “spirit” of Martin Luther King be used for the launch of a new social justice, economic and political movement known as the Worldwide Wave of Action.
Plans for the Worldwide Wave of Action are beginning to take shape.
David DeGraw, is one of the organizers behind the Wav. David, recently wrote in an email that when he “pressed play on the new Worldwide Wave of Action video, the voice of Martin Luther King rang out crystal clear with a message that could not be timelier”. Dr. King went on, “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
DeGraw said, he thought he had slipped into a vortex and transported into a new dimension as Dr. King went on to say, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom. ”. David then wrote, “I had fallen down the rabbit hole declaring” as Dr. King did “let freedom ring!.”
The Worldwide Wave of Action has already inspired several other videos (see some here, here, here & here) and has just launched a new organizing site at WaveOfAction.org. The call to action found there, states, “this will be a decentralized crowdsourced movement open to all willing to engage in a wide diversity of nonviolent tactics”.
As their homepage pleads: “Be the change. What are you waiting for? This is your movement! Let’s create a culture of transformation. Share an action or event that you are organizing. Whether it’s a large-scale demonstration or a small personal act, tell the world what you are doing to be the change we need….”
It is obvious, The Worldwide Wave of Action, has been influenced by the Anonymous, Occupy and 99% movements. David DeGraw, who was involved back then, said “building on the foundation of these movements provides a powerful opportunity to regain momentum and recapture mass consciousness. Considering that the social conditions, economic inequality and corruption of the political process have become even more severe than they were in 2011, when the Occupy Movement was born”
To me, the timing seems right. Many more people are now aware of the injustice and exploitative nature of the present system. Even the new Pope is now reciting from the Gospel of Occupy, and Gartner, the respected technology research firm, has predicted, “A larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement” in 2014. Other research also reports that it only takes 3.5% of the population to create significant change. With the communications power of the Internet, is it not a viable movement possible? I can’t help but think back to the two Viet Nam demonstrations I attended and results they had.
Is this movement more than naive wishful thinking? It seems the facts indicate otherwise, but organizing and coordinating in a more coherent and unified manner will be needed, not like the loosely knitted Occupy movement.
The organizers have picked a three-month span of time for action. beginning on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, on April 4, 2014, to ignite and unite their collective actions into what they call “an unprecedented Worldwide Wave that cannot be ignored by anyone”.
Rabbi Kline, often says, “if not now, when?” referring to social justice participation, but is the tipping point near? Will there be critical mass? Is there a turning tide to ride? Can a wave of transformation rise over the horizon? In time, these questions will be answered and reported here. Are you going to ride the Worldwide Wave of Action?
Gary Yarus is a freelance writer, a student of political movements, an escapee from the Democratic Party, a progressive populist, a Green Party pro-democracy advocate and the curator of an online magazine, devoted to democracy, ecology, peace and social justice called “The Beacon” ( http://bit.ly/TheBeacon ). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of my December 30th post in RP, “Is a “Third-Party Needed?”, I asked the question, Do you know which President was the last successful third-party candidate? I suspect most reader’s had a common thought that this must be a trick question. Surely a third-party candidate could never be successfully elected President. I am equally sure some of you used Google and found the “rest of the story”.
There was a time a respected lawyer, well known in his community, got elected to office at the state level. He was then approached by an existing political part, organized for several years that asked him to run for President. The man never thought about higher office, but after talking with his advisers and family took up the challenge and began campaigning across the country. Wherever he went, the two major parties of the day would just criticize him and his relatively unknown party. After much campaigning, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States as a Republican. Yes, the Republican Party was the third-party during that time period when Whigs and the Democrats were the two major parties who had held the Presidency until then.
Written with national Presidential elections in mind, there have been many different kinds of challenges to dominance of the two major parties, yet we have had the same two-party duopoly in power for 150 years as both Republicans and Democrats have proved their staying power. During this time period the duopoly has had landslide victories, demoralizing defeats, cliffhanger wins and losses, major splinter movements, and the realignment of their electoral support base. Yet they have endured Presidential campaigns and stayed in power.
The reasons for dismal third-party success is not always the same. The reasons may change over time and usually, no one factor limits the development of a third-party. It is often, several factors working in combination.
Read the rest of…
Gary Yarus: Roadblocks to Third-Party Success – Part I
From The RP’s sister, Jennifer Miller, on Quora:
The following article — torn, yellowed, matted, and framed — has hung on my wall my whole life. I think it gives a pretty good sense of who the Millers are supposed to be, and it launched my fascination with the writer, J. Soule Smith.
Published in 1899, it is an incredible piece of satire triggered by the Christmas Eve vandalism of my family’s store (Miller Brothers, at the lower left of the photo) in Lexington, Kentucky. The Millers had dared to violate Blue Laws by opening the doors to local children when Christmas fell on a Sunday. My guess is that the Starbucks now in that location will be open on Christmas Sunday 2011.
A JEWISH CHRISTMAS
By J. Soule Smith
The Gatling Gun, 1899
The accursed and despised Jew continues to get in his work. Like Shylock, he not only wants his pound of flesh but insists on taking the trimmings of blood, etc., along with it. He not only supplants his Christian neighbor in business, but he has been trying to vie with him in patriotism, and at last has begun to rob him of his Christmas. We ought to do something with the unregenerate Jew. In England they convert him at a guinea a head, and a thrifty Polish or Russian Jew can make a fair start in business by backsliding every time he gets strapped and being converted some more. Now and then they convert one in this country, and send him around to tell the country churches how they could convert the whole remnant of Israel if they would only put up enough money. So soon as they put up enough money, he invests it in a clothing store and fills the windows with cheap goods worth $2.00, but labeled “Marked down from $8.00 to $6.99.” Then the suckers come and buy, and the smart Jew laughs at the credulous Christian who converted him.
But some of the unregenerate, and unconverted, Jews persist in practicing Christian virtues while stubbornly adhering to the Jewish faith. They insist on living decently, practicing charity, and loving the human race – well knowing that these things are the peculiar prerogatives of Christians. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for acting so, but they are not. They seem to forget that by all our laws of fiction and philosophy, the Jew ought to be grasping and avaricious and the evil demon of his fellow-men. And one Jew, to my knowledge, got up a regular Santa Claus Christmas. It happened here in Lexington, in the heart of the Blue Grass region, where, according to the Northern idea, we kill “niggers” for breakfast and have cold roast pickaninny for supper; yet nobody killed the Jew. He is still alive, and selling ready-made clothing at the old stand.
Christmas of 1898 came on Sunday, as we all know. That is, it did in the United States, though in England some of the clergy decided it was not Sunday at all, since the prayer-book gave no form of worship for such a day; and of course it would be wrong to worship God except according to the prayer-book. But it was Sunday here – worse than a Puritanical Sabbath. The women had all the saloons closed, and toothless virgins stood on the street corners smelling the breath of every passing male. It had been decreed in England that the day was Christmas – a season of rejoicing – not the Sabbath, on which everybody had to be uncomfortable and make everybody else feel the same way. But the male and female old women, here, decided that nobody on earth should have any fun on that day if they could help it. But this unsalivated Jew had all the fun he wanted, and nobody dared stop him. He celebrated Christmas with a real Santa Claus.
That Jew sent out emissaries through the town for a month before, and sought for and found all the poor children – white, black and speckled – who had no parents or friends able or willing to give them Christmas presents. He docketed them by serial and sexual numbers, so that when entered on the books he knew the age, sex, and previous condition of servitude of each one. The Jew always has method in his madness. Then he gave each one of them a card of invitation to his store on Christmas day, and, with malice aforethought, and that diabolical cunning which is characteristic of the Jew, he purchased a present suitable for each child. He had no charitable organization to assist him, so far as I know, except a soft-eyed, sweet-voiced, large-hearted little Jewess – his sister – who, not so very long ago, perpetuated the memory of a dead brother by furnishing a room for poor patients in a Christian hospital. Maybe it would have been more Christian-like for her to have erected a marble mausoleum, but she did not see it in that light.
So this Jew and his sweet-hearted little sister perfected their plot against the Christian children. If they had tried such a game in Spain, three hundred years ago, they would both have been burned at the stake and their goods confiscated. It was well known in those days that Jews at Christian children for breakfast, and picked their bones over, cold, for supper. There was reason to suspect a similar intent in this case, for the children were required to be washed clean before they came. But even then they were not entirely palatable, for the Jew and his sister failed and refused to eat any of them, white or black.
But this Jew and his honey-hearted little sister had their fun all the same, and broke the Christian Sabbath into fragments, not knowing that one Jesus, a Jew, would have done just as they did had He been situated just as they were. He had spoken a parable – something about going into the highways and the by-ways for guests to a supper that was spread – but these unregenerate Jews knew nothing of that. I believe that Jesus is (not was) the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Himself living, to-day, in the hearts of those who worship the living God. I believe with the Brahmin, in the words of Krishna: “Of all Yogas, I respect him as the most devout who hath faith in me and who serveth me with a soul possessed of my spirit.” But this is not orthodox Christian doctrine as taught in the churches and the Temperance Unions and Young Men’s Christian Associations. And, therefore, these ignorant Jews conceived the notion that it was well to make people happy on Christmas day. Poor, foolish Jews! did they not know that the “Christian Sabbath” is a day of groaning and lamentation, and that Jesus Himself would be put in the workhouse for vagrancy if He applied for a Christmas gift at the door of a coal-oil millionaire’s house? Christ, on Euclid avenue, would be collared by the police before He had worked a miracle.
All Saturday night the good Christians of this town bombarded the front of this wicked Jew’s store with Roman candles and Chinese fire-crackers and sky-rockets and dynamite bombs, and other Christian devices for converting unregenerate Jews who obstinately refuse to become converted at a guinea apiece. Most of the Christians were drunk, but the obstinate Jew remained sober, and, finding he could transact no business, went home and went to bed. I suppose he dreamed of eating Christian babies barbecued, or broiled on toast like quail. He never told me his dream, because I did not ask him; but from what I know of Jews I suppose they eat Christian babies – in their sleep. I know they don’t eat them while awake.
Christmas was a bright and breezy Sunday – the atmosphere was clear and could bite without the assistance of a dentist. I went down to this Jew’s store to see how his iniquitous scheme would work out. The scene was unique. There were some Christian bums, left over from the night before, up and down the street, trying to batter their way into the side doors of saloons to get a bracer. Not a drop could they get, though some of them fell by the wayside. They were melancholy and unhappy, and the virtuous virgins and mincing children who passed them on the way to Sunday school drew aside from them in scorn and looked as stolidly miserable as the bums did. They went to church and called themselves “miserable sinners,” and I think they hit this combination about right.
This Jew was a sinner, but I don’t think he was miserable. He was busy in the back part of his store breaking the “Christian Sabbath” that these church people talk about, just like that other Jew, Jesus, broke the Jewish Sabbath – by doing good. In front of the store were two or three hundred children, white, black, yellow and albino – some too little to come by themselves – waiting for Santa Claus to come. At the appointed hour Santa Claus came in his yellow wagon – there was no snow, so he kept his sleigh in Lapland – and forced his way into the store through the excited crowd of youngsters. In the back part of the building he ascended his throne and waited for the little folks to come. A few policemen at the front door, some of them Irish – and every good Protestant knows that an Irish policeman is nearly as bad as a charitable Jew – admitted these little ones, a few at a time, so that there should be no crush and no confusion. These wicked policemen actually smiled and looked happy when they gave those Christian children into the clutches of the ravenous Jew. They were very ungodly police, else so ignorant that they did not know how sinful it was to be happy on the “Christian Sabbath.”
And those poor heathen children – niggers, negroes, mulattoes and white – were happy. Each one presented a card, and Santa gave a present – numbered as the card was. Then the child passed out the side door, with joy in its heart and the present in its arms. Most of them hurried home to tell of their good luck. Some stopped to peep into the bundle. The wicked Jew stood by Santa Claus, and actually gloated over the happiness of these poor creatures, as if a Jew had any right to share the joy of Christian children. His little sister shrunk back into an obscure corner behind the railing of the cashier’s desk and watched the procession of God’s poor, as it passed by, through what looked to me like tears of joy, filming her soft eyes so that their long silken lashes could not hide the gleam. What passed in that little lady’s soul I do not know; there are gray threads in her hair, but never a fibre in the warp and woof of her life that is not sweet and pure and gentle and lovable. For more than twenty years I have known her, and her heart is virgin and her hand is free. No man has ever touched the sanctity of her inner life. But I suspect that even she dared to be happy on this Christmas day while the truly good people were calling themselves “miserable sinners” at church. Alas! so easily corrupted am I, and so seductive the wiles of these wicked Jews, that I am afraid that I, too, was happy when I saw them doing Christ’s work and shaming the churches with their JEWISH CHRISTMAS.
From St. Louis Magazine:
A few years ago, Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith was caught lying to the feds about the funding for a certain political-attack mailer and wound up sentenced to a year behind bars. The charismatic young progressive, who has since left prison and politics behind, contributed a chapter to the new book The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. He tells confessional, instructive stories about what he learned from his mistakes. His chapter begins with a grabber—being strip-searched as he enters the lock-up.
Is the book literally a practical guide for politicians who’ve stumbled, or does it have a broader purpose? To some extent, it’s designed to be a guide, but in a broader way, it’s designed to give anyone who’s going through tough times a lot of ways to handle situations more appropriately, more effectively, in a way that’s healthier. For instance, let’s say you’re a salesman and you’re trying to sell widgets and the company you’re selling to says, “You knock 10 percent off that $1.7 million you just quoted me, and we’ll make it worth your while.” These things are often not so blunt, though. People in everyday life encounter ethical dilemmas in everything they do. The book provides a lot of insight into the mistakes that those of us in the public eye have made that mushroom out of control. Hopefully that can help a lot of people prevent their situations from ever getting to that stage. Most people are not going to be Eliot Spitzer or Anthony Weiner, plastered all over the tabloids, but we all live in a constant state of trying to do the right thing.
The book offers tales of woe from a bunch of former politicians being painfully honest, more so than you usually expect from politicians. We are all pretty vulnerable in that book. We’re getting deep, talking about the lowest moments in our lives, and we’re hoping it transcends people’s typical views of politicians as full of crap and constantly dissembling. There’s not a lot of that in this book.
How did you get involved with the Recovering Politician blog? There are two guys—the former secretary of state of Kentucky and the former treasurer of Kentucky—they started it. My ex-girlfriend had worked in Kentucky, and I met one of these guys. The two of them got together and brainstormed at the time I had just come out of prison, and it came together by happenstance. They asked me to write an essay about my experience, and it went from there.
In a candid column for the Recovering Politician website, you wrote about how the revelation that you’d spent a year in prison got the attention of a group of jaded young people at a party in Brooklyn. Is that a weird feeling, to have a certain street cred by virtue of having served time? Yeah, it’s weird. But you have to try to always let people remember a couple of things—that a lot of people in prison aren’t very much different from them, and that even the ones they think are very different aren’t as different as they think. I try not to let people “go slumming” off my experience. What I’m concerned about is the complete lack of rehabilitation in most prisons and the effect that has.
You’ve had some time, since November 2010, that you’ve been out of prison and the halfway house you went to after prison. Have you gotten some emotional distance from everything? Yes and no. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of activities related to prison issues. Compared to 2011, well, then I wasn’t ready to engage in a lot of stuff like that. But in the last six months, I’ve been spending a lot more time on those issues. I gave a speech at the Cleveland State Prison in Texas to several hundred graduates of one of their programs. The experience of being back inside was emotional. I’m working on a book about my experience in prison and how it’s informed my views on prison policy, and about how we can do a better job leveraging of the untapped talent in our prisons and cut our spending and reduce our recidivist rate.
In 2010, you told SLM’s Jeannette Cooperman that academe “does not even resemble the real world… One of my objectives is to try to explore ways to better connect poli sci with real-world politics.” Now you’re the assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at the New School in New York. Is that what you’re doing there? Yes. In fact, in the next week or two, I have to turn in my dossier, which is my giant file of everything I’ve done in the past few years, for my job renewal, and the opening of that is a statement of purpose, what you’re trying to do in academia. My goals are to help infuse academia with more of an understanding of real-world politics and to give students a better understanding of how things really work, what people who haven’t been in the game might not know. Conversely, I try to bring some of the social-science discipline and analytical training into the public world.
Click here to read the full piece.
I hear the noise from the right wing, claiming Mandela was a “Terrorist,” that he applied “Torture” and “Violence” in accomplishing his goal of freedom. He probably did. But that is the way of the world, where a group of oppressed people rise up for their rights to a reasonable life.
Those in power never yield power without a fight. I believe it was John Kennedy who stated that when peaceful revolution is denied, violent revolution becomes inevitable. History records that the South African regimes that kept Mandela and his people down, committed atrocities far and beyond anything Mandela and the ANC committed against their government. Racism is violence.
I wonder…would Mandela’s detractors accuse George Washington and the Continental Army of being “Terrorists” because they used violence against the ruling power of England?
Mandela led the way to freedom for his people. As in most revolutions, his side had next to nothing in weapons or logistics. Revolution depends on the fire in the soul, the drive to make life better for the oppressed.
Was Mandela a “Communist?” his goals sound more like the U.S. Constitution than some group of despots who call themselves “Communist.” By the proper definition of the word, the world has never seen a true Communist regime.
Mandela was a great man, a great leader. I wish we had a Mandela in America.
Neal Smith is the Chairman of Indiana NORML
I am writing my thoughts about Nelson Mandela, having the advantage of reading over a dozen commentaries written here by others. These commentaries celebrated his life with views most people can support. There is no doubt he was an iconic figure, the father of his country, triumphing over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. To me, this great man can be more accurately eulogized and admired, in other equally important ways.
Mandela was a political activist and agitator who without universal approval did not shy away from controversy. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced a feerless progressive and provocative platform. Shortly after his death one commentator wrote “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel'”, because of the his Malcolm X moments of anger. None the less, I see Mandela as the inspirational freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.
Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism accusing the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war, all for oil. He saw the Iraq War as an example of American imperialism around the world. He said “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States”.
Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right calling p overty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. He said “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,”. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty:
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enterthe last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”
May his memory be a blessing.
In 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.
My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.
I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.
Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.
I read with interest your memorial pieces on Nelson Mandela.
There were various metaphors and comparisons to angels, to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but little discussion of the reality of this complex political figure who was on USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008! Don’t get me wrong, I’m am a great admirer of Mr. Mandela and in fact the international plea for his release from prison was the start of my very long career as an Amnesty International Urgent Action writer.
But let’s not forget that Mr Mandela’s incarceration was lengthened due to his unwillingness to renounce violence as a means for gaining his people’s emancipation, and his unwillingness to denounce those committed to this cause who felt violence was indeed their only recourse.
As a pacifist I feel conflicted with this stand as indeed non-violent resistance yielded no result for this cause and it would seem they were right that the Afrikaner minority and international community only noticed their actions when they turned violent and when the rightful rulers of South Africa governed from behind the bars at Robben Island.
I think it was Homer who pled “Paint me with all my warts!”. I feel we do not honour Mr Mandela’s memory by glossing over his warts, and the gravity, the reality of his life and work.
Thanks, I made one minor subject very edit and one other small change: please use the version below!
Nelson Mandela should rank as the Man of the 20th Century and I would go so far as to say the honor is really not in dispute. If Franklin Roosevelt overcame a broken body and marshaled the world to conquer a monster, remember that 27 years in prison should have broken both a body and a spirit, and appreciate that Mandela had no global army to conquer his beast. There were other democratic founders who were tested in prison—Walesa, Havel—but no one else mastered conciliation so skillfully that they made their captors voluntarily negotiate the terms of their own political demise.
There were other visionaries who spoke to the soul, from Gandhi and John Paul II to Martin Luther King, but no one but Mandela translated vision to power deftly enough to re-make a nation so thoroughly and so swiftly.
Another measure of his stature is that to emulate him seems superhuman. The moral nature of Mandela, from the forbearance to the forgiveness to the restraints he self-imposed in response to a people who would have made him a civil king, is about as foreign to our fractious ways, and our self-promoting mindset, as our technology would be to a caveman.
There is one other aspect to Mandela that gets overlooked. He understood that the measure of a society is not its elegant constitutions or robust markets or even the most egalitarian laws but the extent to which its culture enshrines mutual respect. (Pay attention, liberals and conservatives!) The heartbreak of his life may well have been watching the ways apartheid kept diminishing his country, years after its rules were buried: the insidious manner in which the children of apartheid were too predisposed to turn into thugs; or demagogues who stuffed their pockets; or men who abused their women or women who debased their own bodies. The most gifted politician of the 20th Century knew that politics by itself cannot rebuild what a culture breaks.