Community leaders remember Mandela

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, December 7, 2013

FRANKLIN—As word of Nelson Mandela’s death spread through Western Tidewater, locals grieved the loss of a leader not only in South Africa, but of the world.

Mandela, who led South Africa from apartheid leadership to a multi-racial democracy, died Thursday at age 95.

Larry Rose, founder of the Franklin Sportsman’s Club, said Mandela was an outstanding example on how people should live their lives.

“One of the things that I learned from him was that it wasn’t the white way, or the black way, it was all based around one way, and that was build around loving each other, and respecting each other,” said Rose. “That’s what this world lacks today, love.”

He said that Mandela was a tremendous leader.

“He had a tremendous impact on all of society,” Rose said. “He had an impact on me. I would say it was mostly the struggles he went through, and how he persevered. In this world, it is what it is, and you have to persevere, and treat others as we would like to be treated.”

Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule in South Africa. He emerged from jail and used his leadership skills to bring down apartheid, while avoiding civil war in the country. In doing so, he became an icon of peace and reconciliation.

“The way he did it, he made everybody feel like they were a part of it,” Rose said. “You have to recognize that as individuals, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, you have to put love above all.

“You can’t live off the past. You can’t live off of hate. You have to live off what you have now, and that’s love.”

Paul D. Camp Community College President Paul Wm. Conco said Mandela’s passing was felt around the world.

“His character, his style and his example of forgiveness impressed everyone,” he said. “Here is a man who was sentenced to life in prison for trying to change apartheid, and after almost 30 years to come out and not be revengeful and bitter, but to continue to do good work is such an example that we all could follow.”

Conco said that as he was aging, maturing, learning and developing, that Mandela had an impact on his life.

“To hear his story of being released from prison, to take a leadership role and be elected as the first black president is a fine example to try and emulate,” he said. “To come out and not be bitter, to not hold grudges, but to keep moving forward — he is quite the example.

“And he only served one five-year term. He could have served more. He did not want to be so powerful, so he passed the role on seamlessly to the next fellow.”

Longtime Southampton County supervisor Moses Wyche said Mandela was a good leader.

“I was inspired by a lot of the things he did,” he said. “I thought he was a great leader, in the way he went about helping people live better lives.”

Franklin City School Board Chairperson Edna King said Mandela, along with Martin Luther King Jr., have been two of the most influential leaders in her life.

“I read Nelson Mandela a lot and kept up with the things he was doing, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., and I think those two persons really left a legacy, when it comes to getting people involved, and getting people devoting their lives to improve relations amongst all people,” she said. “I think he had an impact on people everywhere, world wide.”

King said the leadership skills Mandela demonstrated were excellent.

“It is a great loss,” she said. “Of course, he has been ill, and he has suffered and was no longer visible in involvement in activities at his age. But I think that he really left that type of legacy, that all people not just any given group of people, can appreciate. You hear this even when you listen to how people of foreign countries really feel about what he accomplished in his lifetime.”

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be laid to rest in the village of Qunu on Sunday, Dec. 15, South African officials said Friday.

President Barack Obama hailed Mandela as a leader who promoted peace and freedom. He ordered that White House flags be lowered to half-staff until Monday in tribute to him.

On becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Mandela said: “The time for healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”