Franklin shares reflections on Mandela

Dec. 6, 2013

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Robert Franklin, Emory's senior adviser on community and diversity to the provost and other senior administrators

As the world mourns the death and celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, Robert Franklin, Emory's senior adviser on community and diversity to the provost and other senior administrators, reflects on the meaning of Mandela's life to the people of South Africa and the world.  

Franklin, who calls Mandela "a leader with a heart of gold," began writing his reflection while in Cape Town, South Africa in June of 2013, and completed it when he heard the news.  

Franklin is calling on the Emory community to share their thoughts and memories of the former South African president, Nobel laureate and hero to millions.  

"Driving along the modern roadway to the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, I notice a large boulder next to the road, unusual only because one face of the rock has been painted white and bears three gold stenciled pictures of Nelson Mandela's smiling face. He is everywhere and he lives. His spirit hovers over this dynamic new and ancient nation.  

Arriving at the Cape on this sunny, crisp Sunday afternoon, there are crowds of people from Asia, South America, Africa, Europe, North America and beyond, all here, all home on this the mother continent. They, too, pass the golden president whose image is stenciled onto the conscience of decent people everywhere.  

He would not accept injustice quietly, he protested. He did not seek to avoid the state's unjust sentence, he endured it. He did not strike a deal to claim freedom earlier, he sacrificed his family, his health, his career.  

The world watched and learned something about moral leadership and its sacrifices, and its triumphs. His dignified example inspired a world to protest and challenge our institutions to divest from supporting a racist regime. We demanded Mandela's freedom, we dreamt of a new South Africa.  

Then, one day, he walked out of prison. I recall a golden sunshine illumined the moment as millions cheered. Not long thereafter, the prisoner became the president of the country. We did not expect that. But, Dr. King often reminded us that the arc of the moral universe is long and it bends, bends and almost breaks but keeps bending until justice is manifest, made flesh, made president.  

Now, he has slipped away. We will grieve for a while, and we will remember.  

And, we will soon celebrate what we remember.  

Leadership matters, and the arc is still bending, bending.  

Watch the sunrise, it will be golden. He lives, he is smiling.  

What are your thoughts and memories of President Nelson Mandela?"

To share thoughts and memories visit Franklin's blog, "Frankly Speaking."