Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 1 Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Reddit Tell A Friend Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites
OpEdNews Op Eds

Mandela's Spirit of Forgiveness

By       Message David Korten       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

Related Topic(s): ; ; , Add Tags
Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 12/7/13

Author 2400
Become a Fan
  (6 fans)
- Advertisement -
From Nelson Mandela Statue - South African Embassy
Nelson Mandela Statue - South African Embassy
(Image by tedeytan)
  Permission   Details   DMCA
It is an extraordinary moment when the entire world pauses to honor and celebrate the life and spirit of a truly remarkable human being.

We celebrate Mandela most of all for the extraordinary compassion and courage with which he reached out to his former oppressors in a spirit of forgiveness. He acknowledged their common humanity and welcomed their participation in forging a new "rainbow" nation. He exemplified, along with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the highest and best of what it means to be human.

- Advertisement -

It was in January 1992, during the historic transition period that followed Mandela's release from prison. I traveled to South Africa at the invitation of the Business School at the University of the Witwatersrand to speak at a workshop organized to prepare a group of ANC leaders for their roles in the new government. Several had been in prison with Mandela. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela, I did meet leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) who spent time with Mandela during his 27 years in prison and subsequently joined him in leading South Africa's post-apartheid government.

They were clearly men of intelligence and ability who looked more to the future than to the past. Apart from their passionate commitment to creating a new South Africa, they seemed much like the participants I had encountered in previous management seminars for successful executives. As I recall, they made no mention in the workshop of their years of forced isolation or the physical and mental abuse they endured at the hands of their jailers.

Outside of class, we did have some conversations about their prison experience. But even there, I don't recall a word of resentment or anger against their cruel and racist jailers.

- Advertisement -

What I do recall is their deep sense that those on both sides of the apartheid struggle were victims of an unjust system that suppressed the realization of their full humanity. In effect, the system imprisoned both the jailers and the jailed. They showed a profound and universal insight into the consequences of Apartheid's systemic injustice. It's an insight that applies with equal force to today's global economic system, which suppresses the humanity of both its winners and its losers.

Even now, the depth and beauty of the wisdom, compassion, and humanity of the ANC leaders I had the privilege of meeting in 1992 brings tears to my eyes. Never before and never since have I experienced such wisdom and spiritual maturity. I came away with a new hope for humanity and regularly look back on this encounter as an inspiring demonstration of human possibility.

I never met Mandela, but I look back on this experience with a sense that I at least had a brief encounter with his extraordinary spirit.

David KortenDavid Korten wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. David is the author of Agenda for a New EconomyThe Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and Ph.D. degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.

Reprinted from


- Advertisement -

View Ratings | Rate It

David Korten is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network. This article draws from his newly released book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. Go to for book excerpts, related (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon Share Author on Social Media   Go To Commenting

The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Who Really Crashed the Economy?

The End of Empire

Do Corporations Really Need More Rights? Why Fast Track for the TPP Is a Bad Idea

Microcredit: --The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The New Economy Challenge: Implications for Higher Education

The Superrich Have Profited From a Broken System--And Their Money Alone Won't Fix It