My Favorite Personality Essay

My favorite personality is Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. His accomplishments made him a global icon and is considered by many as an epitome of great leadership. He encompassed what true leadership is. He served his people diligently and led by example, as a result he is revered all over the world.

He went through many setbacks in his quest to free his people from the oppressive apartheid regime and even held the highest office in the nation. What makes Mandela special to me is the fact that he came from a humble background and became a world leader. The conditions of his earlier life did not hold him back, but acted as fuel towards his quest of championing for equality of all races all over the world.

Born in July 18, 1918 to Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela and Nonqaphi Nosekei in the small village of Mvezo, Mandela ventured into active politics in 1942, a year before his graduation in 1943 from the University of South Africa. He completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree. He joined the African National Congress (ANC)- a political movement and helped set up the ANC Youth League in 1944.

A charismatic leader, he rose to the high ranks of leadership in the ANC Youth League. While under ANC, Mandela championed for peaceful protests against the apartheid regime. However, this approach did not prove fruitful and they therefore adopted a more militant approach.

Through a military wing of the party, Umkhonto Wesizwe (Spear of the Nation), he mobilized people to boycott, strike and carry out series of attacks. Unfortunately, due to his political activities, he was apprehended, charged with treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was sent to Robben Island prison facility, where he spent his next 27 years in incarceration. He was released on February 11, 1990. After his release, he was unanimously chosen as the president of ANC in 1991. He worked hand in hand with the then president FW de Klerk to end the apartheid system. He participated in the nation’s first ever all inclusive electoral process that saw him win the presidency with a landslide.

He was therefore inaugurated as the first democratically elected black president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. After serving one term, he stepped down in 1999 at the age of 81 years. When he became president, he put his personal differences aside and decided to let bygones be bygones. He did not expel the white Africans, nor did he hold personal vendetta towards them. He called for unity of all races and set up the new South Africa, as a rainbow nation that accommodated everyone. He died on 5 December 2013 at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95 years.

Although most of his viable life was taken away from him, I believe God added him more years to compensate for the years that he was in prison. The following instances offer a glimpse of how iconic Nelson Mandela was. First of all, he was the first member of his family to attend school. He was fortunate enough to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts from the University of South Africa, but only got it after he got expelled from the University College of Fort Hare for participating in students’ protests.

He also studied law and attained his diploma and was allowed to practice law. Together with his friend Oliver Tambo, they set up the first black law firm in South Africa, which they called Mandela & Tambo. The law firm offered legal counsel and representation to Africans who had broken apartheid laws.

While in prison, Mandela helped mobilize hunger strikes that helped improve their living conditions. He would communicate with other inmates through paper notes hidden in match boxes that would either be hidden under piles of dirty utensils or stuck in toilet tanks. Still in prison, he declined more than three conditional release offers from the government.

He believed in his principles and was not willing to compromise his beliefs for freedom.  In 1985, the South African president at the time P.W. Botha offered to grant him freedom, if he renounced armed struggled. He declined by saying, “What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

Furthermore, he was very instrumental in establishing peace in the newly formed nation. Due to the animosity that was evident between the races, there were concerns that once Mandela took office the nation would plunge into a civil war. But, Mandela understood the repercussions of violent retribution and worked hard to subdue it. Through his Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he was able to unite the nation and brought down the racial barriers that separated them. He also used sports to foster unity. In 1995, his nation hosted the Rugby World Cup. The South African national team, the Springboks, consisted of only whites players and the black South Africans despised them.

However, Mandela urged them to support their team. During Springbok’s final meet with New Zealand, Mandela showed up to the stadium with a Springbok jersey amid cheers from the predominantly white crowd. Needless to say, South Africa won the match and the tournament. Not only that, Nelson Mandela is probably the most decorated person in human history.

He had more than 250 awards to his name, including the coveted Nobel Peace Prize. He was also the last person to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. At least 50 universities across the globe have also awarded him honorary degrees and he was the first person to be made a Canadian honorary citizen in 2001.

There is also a global holiday celebrated in his honor. The Nelson Mandela International Day was instituted in 2009 by the United Nations to celebrate his legacy and to encourage community service and world peace. The holiday is celebrated yearly on July 18- his birthday.  Mandela has also authored a series of books.

His iconic piece of literary is his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, which he secretly wrote in prison. This book inspired the movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom that was released in 2013. His other literary masterpieces include, No Easy Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales and Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is My Life.

Nelson Mandela had so many foundations that he used as avenues to uplift the lives of people all over the world. Some of the foundations include:

  • Nelson Mandela children’s fund- established in 1995, the fund initially helped homeless children and orphans up to the age of 22 years. It now helps children affected by the HIV/Aids scourge.
  • Nelson Mandela foundation- this nonprofit organization was established in 1999. It sole responsibility is to champion for equality of all races.
  • The Mandela Rhodes foundation- this foundation offers scholarships to students all over Africa for post-graduate studies.
  • 46664- the number does not represent the mark of the beast, as many conspiracy theorists claim. It is actually his prison number in Robben Island. This foundation is geared towards AIDS awareness and prevention. One of Mandela’s biggest regrets is that he never addressed HIV/Aids in his term as president and a result, his nation is one of the most affected by the disease. His son, Makgatho, also died from the disease. He therefore dedicated most of his later years in fighting HIV/Aids.
  • He also formed “The Elders” with his wife Graca Machel. Some of the notable members of this organization include Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter. This organization brings together world leaders to fight for human rights and world peace.

Above all, he was a great father to his kids. Most of his marriages ended up in divorce, except the last one with Graca Machel that blossomed into a loving relationship until the time of his death. He went through two divorces in his life, owing to his political life and also because of his stint in prison. With his first two wives, he had six kids.

His first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase bore him four children (two sons and two daughters), while Winnie Madikizela Mandela, his second wife was blessed with two daughters. He did not have any children with his last wife Graca, because they were both advanced in years when they came into a union.

His name “Rolihlahla” has the literal meaning of “pulling the branch of a tree” in his Xhosa language. However, the name actually translates to troublemaker. He lived up to his name, as evidenced by the troubles he brought to the apartheid regime, but it was for a good cause.

Once he achieved his quest, he fought for global peace and equality until his death. Nelson Mandela is an enigma of true leadership. His selfless actions and relentless will to better the lives of his people highlight what true leadership is. He may not be with us now, however his legacy will live on for many generations to come.