Goodbye, President Mandela

The world is getting ready to bid farewell to Nelson Mandela.

The late former president of South Africa, who died this past Wednesday at age 95, stood as arguably the world’s most towering political figure of the latter part of the 20th century. He fought to end apartheid in his country, went to prison for 27 years for daring to challenge his government’s policies of tyranny against its black constituents, came out of prison in February 1990 and went on to be elected his country’s first black president in that historic 1994 election.

Frontline, PBS’s documentary series, aired a special on Mandela in 1999 titled “The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela.” Monday night on Panhandle PBS, Frontline is presenting the special a second time. It’s been posted on PBS’s website and, of course, it is worth watching online as well.

The special reveals some things about Mandela that aren’t widely known: He was born into a prosperous South African family; he obtained a law degree and practiced law; he decided that civil disobedience wasn’t going to persuade South Africa’s white government to change its ways, so he became more aggressive in his protests; he suffered from tuberculosis while in prison for more than a quarter century.

Mandela could have faced a death penalty after being convicted of treason and he stood before the judge and declared his willingness to die for the cause of freedom for black South Africans. The judge instead sentenced him to life in prison. To the benefit of the world, he was able to walk out of prison a free man.

Mandela will be memorialized in a ceremony next week in South Africa. Virtually every important world leader will attend, including President Obama and three of the four surviving former U.S. presidents.

Frontline’s compelling story of this man’s equally compelling life story is worth our attention Monday night on Panhandle PBS.

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