News of Nelson Mandela’s death on Thursday struck me hard. Not because it was a surprise, but because it felt like the end of an era. As President Barak Obama commented, “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.”
I feel the same, but I hope I am wrong. As I reflect on Mandela’s life and legacy, I am reminded of perhaps his greatest example to us all — forgiveness. Imprisoned for 27 years, much of it hard labor, he forgave his adversaries, even reached out to them in peace and collaboration upon his release. I admit I’ve clung to anger and resentment for far less egregious offenses.
For years, I’ve visited our county’s elementary and middle schools, encouraging children to stay in school, to set goals and achieve them, and to take responsibility for their actions. I’ve also been encouraging them to be kind and forgiving to themselves and others.
Just as Mandela’s life has inspired me and millions of others, I hope my words impact even a few of the students I’ve met over the years. No matter who influences us during our lives, we should remember that inspiration is not merely a feeling, but a call to action.
We may never again see somebody who embodies all of Mandela’s good qualities, but we can all strive to be our best for ourselves and for others. It is all anyone can ask of a person — and it is everything Mandela would ask of us.
Snohomish County Executive