Did I ever meet Nelson Mandela? No sadly but have been close to and spent time with others who have … and I have, like my own late Father, been involved in the struggle against apartheid. This essay might seem egocentric as it is more my story then a tribute to this great man. Not at all I assure you – the truth is most will be writing obituary type biographies to honor Nelson Mandela and as such I decided to tell my REAL life part in that which meant so much to this great individual. I hope that my readers will find it both interesting and an informative tutorial – me, a nice Jewish woman from Philadelphia, being in a very tangible way part and parcel of a special man’s life.
In previous blog essays I have written about my late Father’s social and political activism – so it was too with the struggle against apartheid. As such my parents participated in letter writing, meetings, aide and divesting themselves of any investments they might have unsuspectedly held from South Africa in protest. I as their daughter therefore was no stranger to the battle and as a family knew many personally and about more Jewish South Africans fighting with life and limb to defeat this horror. As a young married woman I turned down on account of a busy schedule joining a favorite doctor Great Uncle and Aunt one snowy evening for a coffee visit with a Jewish physician couple that had been forced to leave that troubled nation due to their own involvement in the anti-apartheid movement. Made more poignant is that there was an accident that evening which killed my Aunt instantly and gravely injured my Uncle, of which he succumb to a few months later.
In 1982 my dear late father-in-law, Colonel Harold [my first marriage; I was widowed in 2000] had asked if David and I would join him and my mother-in-law at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in 1982. Allow me to explain that my in-law family were WASP – Conservatives in the old fashion sense of that word but while not as active as my own parents on social issues, still concerned about human rights around the world. The Colonel was involved with the Pentagon, taught at Oxford in England [where my first husband and his sister grew up] and I am proud to say is a ranked senior tennis player in the Newport, Rhode Island Hall of Fame. What do all these lovely facts have to do with Nelson Mandela you must be thinking? Well it is simply to suggest that these fine people were not deeply thrilled that their daughter-in-law (me) had decided to attend a anti-apartheid demonstration at the D.C. South African Embassy prior to happily joining them at the Vietnam Memorial event. So you see front and center was I in my own small way concerning that which Mandela gave his all for.
My other shall we say rather brazen – actually REALLY brazen personal Mandela event came when my first husband and I attended an IBM dinner [his employer] where high up executives were present. As it so happened this particular dinner conveniently took place exactly when news coverage was plentiful concerning United States corporations, including IBM being guilty or at least less than stellar in fighting the apartheid government in South Africa. Bet you can guess what happened over cocktails – yes I did bring the issue up and everyone was gracious, the chat was interesting and I remained a lady throughout the whole time. Next day my husband told me the the gentleman I confronted actually were impressed – thought I was “feisty“. In all fairness and for full disclosure, I need to state the IBM did eventually do the right thing by turning over operations of various offices and production facilities to black South African business men and women.
All this an important part of my REALLY varied and interesting life. Still the fact that as a Jew seeing the great Mandela meet and embrace Yasser Arafat, a sworn enemy of Israel was hurtful to say the least. Especially when one realizes that the extremist white South Africans that Mandela fought against were admitted Nazis sympathizers. However, one must consider the totality of any man or woman’s life and so today I write with love, honor and respect of this individual who changed the world and from who much can be learned by all people. Nelson Mandela often said he was no G-d, not perfect and only a man … not nearly true – he was special and unique and the world is better for having known him. May Nelson Mandela be granted eternal peace - the same which he fought so hard to bring his people and the entire world!!!
P.S. In my year end (2013) book, Heiress Mommy … A Modern Super Woman Life! and the more detailed Summer 2014 Life Journey of Heiress Mommy much will be explained about how my life became so REALLY full and rich. My hope and pray is that all who read these books will be inspired to seek all possible – go for it as the saying goes. Who knows? Maybe you can change the world or at least make waves like I have!!!