By Mary Theroux • Friday December 6, 2013 12:33 AM PST •
At our Gala for Liberty honoring him, Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered his memories of working with Nelson Mandela in transitioning South Africa from the violent, divided rule of apartheid, by way of the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission that could grant amnesty to perpetrators (subject to the consent of the victims or their families)—a stirring and powerful account of the power of love over evil:
As Archbishop Tutu also recounts, Mandela’s 27 years in prison transformed him:
We were incredibly blessed in South Africa to have had at a crucial time in our history this extraordinary man, Nelson Mandela, who by the way was not a magnanimous, compassionate person when he went to jail. He was young, and the 27 years that many of us reckon is a waste of time were quite important in the evolution of Nelson Mandela from being—if you remember, he was the commander-in-chief of the military wing of the ANC. And it was in jail with all of the suffering—suffering either makes you bitter or it ennobles you. But we were very lucky that he was at the helm of our ship of state. And where people had expected an orgy of revenge and retribution, I think people to some extent were awed by the spectacle of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Timeless lessons for any place and time. Watch it and weep, laugh, and be inspired.