American Turban

“an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela’s struggle was already decades old by the time I — a young child — first learned of his story when watching the late night news with my father in the early 1980s. By then, the issue of apartheid and the subjugation of the blacks in South Africa was a well-known issue. I recall watching his interview with the BBC recorded in 1961, the black-and-white video of a mysterious man who spoke of a struggle for harmony and equal dignity. It was one of the few recordings of him broadcasted on television. In his South African accent, I was struck by the clarity of his words, the resoluteness in his voice, and the measure with which he spoke.

Today, it seems unnatural for me to mourn his passing, and I gravitate instead towards celebrating his life, and considering in awe that the world still may produce individuals such as this. Nelson Mandela was a man whose personal ambition was only as it fulfilled his greater purpose. The impact he has had on this world — from a child watching television in a living room, to world leaders — has been remarkable. His name has exceeded being the story of one man, and has instead become symbolic with the ideals of freedom and equality. I am appreciative to have been able to witness such a story in my lifetime.

Since his passing last week, much has been written about his life and legacy. Any recounting of his life by me would not do justice, however, I can only reflect on his impact on me today.

Sikhs celebrate those in our history who were uncompromising in their principles — individuals who would forego personal benefit, convenience or advantage in order to serve the Sikh community and uphold our ideals. Nelson Mandela is the archetype of such an individual, and his legacy should live on as lessons for the rest of us who seek to uncompromisingly stand for our principles today.

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