Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

One of the world's great men passed into history today. Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. Perhaps many who read this will know little of Mandela because his public life was largely over by the late nineties. Yet his life is one which everyone should familiarize themselves with because his amazing story and evolution as a man and a leader is truly exceptional.

This is not to say he was perfect, but for a man who spent one third of his life in prison, his lack of bitterness and vindictiveness is nothing short of saintly. Upon his release from prison he entered politics becoming the first black president of his country in 1994. He presided over the abolition of apartheid, and his graciousness toward his enemies and those who committed terrible crimes under apartheid led him to establish the committee of Truth and Reconciliation which extended legal absolution to those who repented of their abuses and crimes under the old regime. This was, as far as I know, an unprecedented move and was a truly remarkable act of grace, forgiveness, and healing.

CNN has an excellent retrospective of his life. Here are some excerpts:
Despite chronic political violence before the vote that put him in office in 1994, South Africa avoided a full-fledged civil war in its transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy. The peace was due in large part to the leadership and vision of Mandela and de Klerk.

"We were expected by the world to self-destruct in the bloodiest civil war along racial grounds," Mandela said during a 2004 celebration to mark a decade of democracy in South Africa.

"Not only did we avert such racial conflagration, we created amongst ourselves one of the most exemplary and progressive nonracial and nonsexist democratic orders in the contemporary world."

Mandela represented a new breed of African liberation leaders, breaking from others of his era such as Robert Mugabe by serving one term.
South Africa's fight for reconciliation was epitomized at the 1995 rugby World Cup Final in Johannesburg, when it played heavily favored New Zealand.

As the dominant sport of white Afrikaners, rugby was reviled by blacks in South Africa. They often cheered for rivals playing their national team.

Mandela's deft use of the national team to heal South Africa was captured in director Clint Eastwood's 2009 feature film "Invictus," starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the white South African captain of the rugby team.

Before the real-life game, Mandela walked onto the pitch, wearing a green-and-gold South African jersey bearing Pienaar's number on the back.

"I will never forget the goosebumps that stood on my arms when he walked out onto the pitch before the game started," said Rory Steyn, his bodyguard for most of his presidency.

"That crowd, which was almost exclusively white ... started to chant his name. That one act of putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa."

Millenials to Mr. Obama: The Love Is Gone

Ron Fournier a liberal supporter of the President who writes for National Journal has some bad news for the President and his party. It seems that young Americans are growing increasingly disenchanted with our political leadership in general and Mr. Obama and the Democrats in particular. Fournier writes:
Young Americans are turning against Barack Obama and Obamacare, according to a new survey of millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are vital to the fortunes of the president and his signature health care law.

The most startling finding of Harvard University's Institute of Politics: A majority of Americans under age 25--the youngest millennials--would favor throwing Obama out of office.

The survey, part of a unique 13-year study of the attitudes of young adults, finds that America's rising generation is worried about its future, disillusioned with the U.S. political system, strongly opposed to the government's domestic surveillance apparatus, and drifting away from both major parties. "Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the level of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline," reads the IOP's analysis of its poll. "Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them."

The results blow a gaping hole in the belief among many Democrats that Obama's two elections signaled a durable grip on the youth vote.

Indeed, millennials are not so hot on their president.

Obama's approval rating among young Americans is just 41 percent, down 11 points from a year ago, and now tracking with all adults. While 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, only 46 percent said they would do so again.

When asked if they would want to recall various elected officials, 45 percent of millennials said they would oust their member of Congress; 52 percent replied "all members of Congress" should go; and 47 percent said they would recall Obama. The recall-Obama figure was even higher among the youngest millennials, ages 18 to 24, at 52 percent.

While there is no provision for a public recall of U.S. presidents, the poll question revealed just how far Obama has fallen in the eyes of young Americans.

IOP director Trey Grayson called the results a "sea change" attributable to the generation's outsized and unmet expectations for Obama, as well as their concerns about the economy, Obamacare and government surveillance.
Doubtless the President's minions are working assiduously to come up with a strategy to win back the wayward hearts of the millenials, and one possible "solution" is waiting like a ripe peach to be plucked. It's been suggested that Mr. Obama may simply forgive college student loan debt. This would, of course, delight hundreds of thousands of students who are weighted down with enormous debt and pessimistic about ever getting a decent job in the present economy. On the other hand, it would probably infuriate just as many who struggled to pay their college bills without having to go too deeply into debt only to see their fellow students awarded with what amounts to a free education from the government for no reason other than that the President believes he can buy their political loyalty.

Anyway, Mr. Obama hasn't done it yet and may not ever do it, so I don't want to fault him for something he hasn't done. There's enough that he has done for which he can justly be held to account without getting prematurely outraged over things he only might do.