This time of year always causes me to reflect on my experiences on the African continent, in South Africa, Niger, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Benin. In the northern latitudes, we witness the dramatic shortening of days — quite extreme here in the Pacific Northwest. We celebrate with friends and family, light candles and fires in fireplaces, bake delicious treats, and drink beverages to warm and sooth our soul as it hibernates for the months ahead. Much of the African continent does not experience a major shortening of days, yet the spirit of community, of friends and family is strong. These are ties that do not need the cycle of seasons to illuminate them.
In this period of global unrest, I was pleased to see Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom highlighted in the Financial Times last Sunday. As one of the world’s most inspirational leaders, Mandela’s journey and the concept of ubuntu, of which I wrote earlier in this column, serve as a reminder for why we have business schools and why we must hold our leaders to a higher standard.
As 2011 comes to a close, take time to read Long Walk to Freedom and consider how our political, business, and neighborhood leaders can answer this higher call and live to serve their fellow brothers and sisters. For if we cannot live with that purpose, what are we celebrating?
MIke, I read this book several years ago, and was moved deeply by his ability to overcome all the obstacles put in his way. I would also recommend Archbishop Desmond Tutus’ “Rainbow People Of God”. Even an avowed Atheist like me can’t help but feel humbled by the way Tutu rises above ignorance and hate and conquers by the unalloyed power of love. I am amazed that he remains, even to this day, an incredibly optimistic and joyous man, thrilled at every turn by life and what people can achieve if given the opportunity. Both Tutu and Mandela represent humanity at its’ best, and stand as shining exemplars to all of us who would sink into petty conflict and self interest.