Today, on what would be Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, we remember Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa. There are a great many quotations from Mandela’s life and writings that we are all familiar with. I have chosen this quotation because it has the recognition of journey and moving forward as an essential part of life. It also reminded me of Nano Nagle and her always ‘going one step beyond’. A journey from the particular and local to ‘the many’ and the global, a journey with ‘all made poor’.
“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, White and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.
A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to castoff one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.
But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”