How do you measure the worth of a life? Do you count the number of people who have been inspired by that life? The number of people who loved the person? Do you count the number of things they accomplished, or the impact of their actions, or the legacy they leave behind?
By each of these counts, Nelson Mandela was an icon of our times. His life was full of hardship, defeats, victories, and triumphs. He spoke with the voice of a nation, and earned the respect of millions around the world. His work in South Africa against racism, corruption, and institutionalized discrimination set an example for all, and inspired many modern leaders.
Many people, from the President of the United States, to nearly every major political and social figure in our world, has spoke on this man. Some knew him personally, many did not. And while there are voices who even now speak out against Mandela, his work, and his legacy, those voices are overpowered by the millions who join in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela and express admiration for and inspiration from his work.
Mandela's passing is sad, and we must mourn the loss of such an inspiring figure. But we must also use this moment to recognize that we are all, at our core, human. We are all people. We may have differences and those differences may divide us from time to time, but on a more fundamental and important level, we are alike. Mandela taught the world that doing what is right is not always easy, but it must be done by someone. Why not us? Why not you? Why not me?
Today, the world will mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, and in the days to come, the loss will be felt. But we will all come to value his life, his legacy, and his teachings, and I sincerely hope that we can lay aside the prejudices we experience, and work closer together to move our world forward. Mandela will forever inspire, forever be remembered, and forever be revered.