Those who have achieved true greatness have had to overcome many setbacks — some devastating. For Nelson Mandela, it started at an early age, as his father died when Nelson was just 12 years old. He was expelled from college for joining a student protest. He was a poor student and flunked out of law school TWO times. He was divorced TWO times. A daughter died in infancy. For much of his adult life, he was denounced as a communist and terrorist. In 1963, he was notoriously imprisoned, and relegated to hard labor pursuant to a life sentence he received for his anti-Apartheid activism. During his TWENTY-SEVEN years of incarceration, his mother and son died, and he was NOT allowed to attend their funerals.
He remained steadfast in his pursuit of a then controversial paradigm articulated in his immortal 1964 ‘Speech From The Dock‘: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
In 1990, a time of escalating civil strife in South Africa (remarkably fueled in part by his wrongful imprisonment), Mr. Mandela finally gained his freedom, yet instead of lashing out at those who had maliciously deprived him of his freedom for more than a quarter of a century, he collaborated with then President F. W. de Klerk to formally abolish apartheid and hold multiracial democratic elections, resulting in his being elected as South Africa’s first black president. As he had promised, he limited his presidency to one term, during which time he established a commission to investigate past civil rights abuses, and took meaningful steps to combat poverty and expand healthcare services for all.
Although the entire world mourned his death in 2013, the legacy of his fulfilled dream lives on as a beacon of inspiration for ALL who are committed to realizing their dreams — and he certainly established a solid foundation for availing countless others an opportunity to pursue them.
Nelson Mandela was regularly confronted by travails that could have easily served as “knockout punches” and cause him to give up on his dream on numerous occasions, but he chose to . . .
Rise Again . . . And Again
And you’d be surprised how many “superstars in life” had to overcome major setbacks before ultimately realizing their dreams, which are often held up as examples of reaching the pinnacle of success. Thus no matter how many times you get knocked down, be absolutely certain that you will Rise Again, as performed below by NeedToBreathe.
[Note: the below performance may be preceded by a brief advertisement & lyrics are below]
I know how it started, the walls that we built to separate us
Make it wider, stronger, til it’s too tall for us to touch
Heaviness is on me, I don’t see, we might be whole again
We might be better off in the wake of a bitter end
Oh, I know I’m gonna rise again
Set my sights on where I’m going
And my goodbyes to where I’ve been
Oh, I know I’m gonna rise again
Singing farewell king of the broken
So long my friend
We could always count on the same things
The ups and the downs like time
We crawl through the abyss then we came through the other side
Heaviness is only temporary the daylight will soon break in
The sunlight can change a heart in the wake of a bitter end.
I could see us moving on I can feel that coming on strong
We’ll never start all over like this and I still can’t believe it (4x)
More recently, we lost another great one — namely Maya Angelou, who ALSO overcame unthinkable adversity, manifested in the brutality of racial discrimination. Undaunted, she pursued a fertile menagerie of dreams, and thus became a modern day renaissance woman: author, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, civil rights activist and one of the greatest poets of her era. Her poem Still I Rise is especially poignant and directly relevant.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.