Happy 93rd Birthday, Nelson Mandela.

He is finally slowing down, his appearances in public fewer and for shorter and shorter durations of time.

The images and videos that are available show a man barely able to hear and being cared for, close to the end of his lengthy and enormously inspiring life.

And, to me, the inevitable decline of the great Nelson Mandela and the fact of his having made it another year on the earth is by itself cause for celebration.

Beyond that, as a Huffington Post article, he continues to move the entire world.

His foundation called for people today to take 67 minutes and do something to make the world better.

This ceaseless struggle and continual willingness to learn, involve and encourage others to do the same may be one of the most enduring of the many parts of his legacy.

He was a firebrand in his youth, but disciplined himself to become the cool negotiator and master tactician the world saw after he was released from Victor Verster Prison in February of 1990.

Homophobic earlier in his life, he came to a more enlightened view of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered people in personal and political ways.

Not only did his government pass one of the world’s most progressive constitutions, Mandela acknowledged doing too little to stop AIDS during his presidency from 1994 to 1999.

But he also said publicly that his last remaining son had died of the disease and urged other families to speak openly about the often-taboo topics.

He has continued to learn new skills like water colors, to publish books of his letters and notes, and to venture into new areas like children’s books.

In short, he has been a man who has grown and expanded and used his time on earth to commit to, and sacrifices for, ideals that at many times seemed unattainable and still, as he notes in the final words of A Long Walk to Freedom, have a long way to go to be fully realized.

Yet he has also retained his humanity, full of jokes and an ability to laugh at himself and a warmth born of suffering,  of an appreciation, even in those difficult years, of all he has received, and, as I said earlier, of an unquenchable thirst to help others.

Happy Birthday, Madiba.  I hope it is filled with joy and happiness for you and your family.

 

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