“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 only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
– Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk To Freedom“
I’m saddened by the loss of Nelson Mandela, and, like many, have been inspired by his sacrifice and dedication to improving the lives of many through his one life. Beyond his legacy as a freedom fighter, nation builder, and statesman – for me, Mandela’s most striking legacy is this: that a human being can take, at any moment, history into their hands to create the changes in which they believe. That we, as imperfect and fallible creatures, can dedicate our lives to work beyond those most human of faults to achieve something greater. That we, as individuals, are limited in power, but limitless in potential.
Madiba recognized that internal revolutions are necessary, meaningful, and the first step of many to inspire change in others. That great leaders are dedicated, honest, and humble. Truly great leaders understand the power of partnership, of community, of sacrifice, of humility, of dedication, of unglamorous hours of infinitely small revolutions contributing to the long road of progress. That the integrity of your vision and the integrity of your work are interconnected, codependent. That leadership is about the empowerment of others, and the recognition that the limits and borders of our world are manufactured, feeble, and ultimately breakable. It is because of this that we are responsible for each other. To each other.
Liberation is deeper than chains or prison cells – true freedom comes from within, comes from a place of dedication to ideas and a vision of something bigger than yourself. By taking the time to recognize who you are and your role in creating something lasting and tangible and meaningful, knowing what type of work creates in you your best self, constantly questioning the type of legacy you want to build. And knowing, truly and deeply, that being your best self empowers others. Knowing that “[there] is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life less than you are capable of living.”