Today is Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday. When I was in my sophomore year in college I remember the day that Mandela was released from prison after being there for 25 years.
Mandela’s story always fascinated me. I am astounded by the strength of character of a man who fights for the rights of his people, goes to prison for those beliefs and serves a term breaking rocks for nearly 25 years.
The day that he was scheduled to be released was Feb. 11, 1990. I got up early and sat in the common room of the dorm, wrappd in semi-sleep and a blanket watching the news coverage. Guys would come and go through the room asking what I was doing up so early and ask what I was doing. I’d tell them, some would stay for a bit and others would just breeze through.
I was in a poetic state of mind that day and wrote the following poem, that I later used in a collection for a class in college
The Open Door
The door stands before him–locked.
Staring with its barred grin–shocked.
The man is not afraid. He has found the key.
The light, shrouding the door, piercing his heart.
Suddenly, the echo of footsteps
Heavy, knowing the way
As well as ginger ones
Through the door
Like ocean spray
Rushing over him
Family and friends
Imprisonment–has its end
Freedom has unlocked the door.
Man must open it.
When I saw him come out of the prison and heard the cheers of the crowd, my heart lept with excitement as well. A kid from the suburbs, who rarely, if ever, had been told “no” celebrated the release of a man who thought the idea of freedom was worth suffering for. He was unwavering in his beliefs and that kind of mental strength is to be admired and applauded. From that day Mandela was an idol of mine, and to think that he went on to become President of the country that imprisoned him still blows my mind to this day.
“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul!”
Happy Birthday Mandela. Thank you for inspiring the world with your perservence and sacrifice.