Jon Barash

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela

Last night I attended the Atlanta memorial for Nelson Mandela, who died last Thursday at the age of 95.  Mr. Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary who served 27 years in prison for his campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa.  He was released from prison in 1990 at a time when the apartheid system was crumbling.  Mr. Mandela went on to become President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999; the country’s first black chief executive.  He is possibly best known for his strength of character and forgiveness through his embrace of racial reconciliation, rather than revenge, after the harsh apartheid system was brought to an end.

The memorial was put on by the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, with numerous co-sponsors, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRC) of which I am a board member.  I attended as a representative of JCRC, along with Howard Friedman and Steven Chervin.  It was held at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.  The memorial included reflections and tributes from civil and human rights luminaries, clergy members, government officials and business, educational and organizational representatives from the Atlanta community, including, Cedric L. Suzman (World Affairs Council), Martin Luther King III, Douglas Shipman (Nat’l Center for Civil & Human Rights), Reverend Bernice A. King, JD (The King Center), Dov Wilker (American Jewish Committee), Rabbis Mario Karpuj and Analia Bortz (Congregation Or Hadash).   Although placed in the middle of the various speakers, the headliner of the memorial (other than Mr. Mandela himself of course), had to be Ambassador Andrew J. Young, former Mayor of Atlanta, Congressman from Georgia’s 5th congressional district, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations (as well as a civil rights icon and a principal lieutenant and friend of Martin Luther King Jr.).  Ambassador Young called on the audience members, and Morehouse students in particular, to take up Nelson Mandela’s fight for equality and “complete the things that he dreamed about,” referring to inequality that still exists in both the United States and South Africa.  Here are some photos.