AS MANDELA TURNS 93, HE RELEASES A NEW BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
Second in a series
By Danny Schechter, Editor, Mediachannel.org
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Nelson Mandela, icon-hero of the world, turns 93 this month. He is hanging on despite family tragedies that claimed another great-grandchild in June. The child was born premature and died after just four days,
The man known by his clan name, Madiba, still evokes wonder and admiration and almost god-like reverence, with airport stores selling We Love Mandela posters and T-shirts. He is the one South African that most of South Africans take pride in, including the older generation that first knew him as an apartheid government designated terrorist.
So feared was he that his picture could not be shown in the media and his words could not be quoted for 27 years.
Ironically, all these years later he has released a book of authorized quotations ('By himself") that cull his thoughts from a life time of public and private utterances in letters, private papers, audio recordings as well from generations of speechifying,
Mandela doesn't really get out much anymore although a select few can still get in to see him especially if their name is Michelle Obama, whose comment on being given an advanced copy of the quotations was a not very quotable, "Wow!" (I have that on good authority from someone who was in the room.)
The last big book of political quotations that went to the top of the sales charts that I remember was Mao's Little Red Book. China's Communist party assured it would be a global bestseller given the size of the population, their control over the country and penchant for disseminating propaganda. Mao's idea appealed to Moammar Gadaffy who then released his own Little "Green Book" to thunderous yawns.
Mao used his book to fight his ill-fated cultural revolution; Now, Mandela's collection that could be called a little book of struggle and solidarity is out to promote the fight for democracy he led.
Its mission is spelled out in a letter he wrote from his prison cell to his daughter Zindzi back in 1980. That quotation explains : "A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas in our dens, our blood and our souls, It can turn tragedy into hope and victory."
It wasn't just his words that brought his victory but they surely helped. This collection features more than 2,000 quotations over 60 years, organized into 300 categories including "character" "courage" and "reconciliation." Many have never been published before and were archived by the Nelson Mandela Foundation's Memory Project. The editors, Sello Hatang and Sahm Venter " say their aim is to offer an accurate and extensive resource.
"In editing the book," they write, " we were struck as much by the gravitas of his words...as by their simplicity."
I was fortunate to be at the book's launch in the offices of the Foundation in Johannesburg.
It was an appropriate place for me to spend my June 27th birthday reflecting on Mandela's triumphs and my own small role in bringing some of them to public attention with six films documenting some of what happened after his release from prison--his election campaign in 1994 and two visits to America, among other memorable markers in his amazing life.
The event was typically low key with a few talks by people who knew him well, worked with him in the ANC and served alongside him in the cells on Robben Island. I knew some of the stalwarts who were there and they were very welcoming to have me back among them.