Remembering Mandela


Nelson.inddThe media has been saturated with accounts of Mr. Mandela’s extraordinary life since his death last week at the age of 95. Much of it is worth reading — notably Nadine Gordimer and Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker.

The celebration of Mandela’s life presents the opportunity to teach your children about the great man.  Here are a few ways you can do just that.


Books:  In a conversation years ago with a notable screenwriter, I learned that she often started her research on a topic with a children’s book, because the format required that all the relevant facts be distilled into the simplest form. So, there’s no shame in getting your facts about Mandela’s life from the authorized kid version of his autobiography.  Of course, you can also read the autobiography itself, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.


Film: As noted by Thomas Freedman in the New York Times, the film Invictus (directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon) examines key facets of the widsom of Mandela’s leadership style.  Many articles from the past few days have cited this film as a nice entry point to discuss Mandela’s philosophy, because it shows how he took the 1996 Rugby World Cup, which took place in South Africa, and helped show his countrymen how he envisioned the future as their leader. (The film is rated Pg-13 for swearing, threats of violence and brutal sports action).

Documentary lovers may want to take in Frontline’s Long Walk of Nelson Mandela. And, there is a biopic in theaters right now called Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  The running time is 141 minutes, and the film has been a hit in South Africa.

Here is the poem, Invictus.



Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.