America needs to learn the political lessons of former South African President Nelson Mandela and apply them today, not just use this moment to mourn the passing of an icon.
The passing of former South Africa president Nelson Mandela on December 5 leaves much of the world with a sense of loss. The example of leadership, hope, and perseverance that the first Black president of the former Apartheid-driven nation offered the world is one that impacted people around the globe.
However, instead of looking at his passing with a sense of reflection upon his legacy or a feeling of grief for his transition, Americans must take this opportunity to elevate the political and civic tones that we find our nation suffering through today.
For conservatives, this moment in world history provides an opportunity for us collectively to examine our rhetoric, perspectives, and actions concerning issues of race and discrimination. For far too long, we have acquiesced to catch-phrases such as “communist” or “terrorist” without articulating the common bonds of liberty, justice, and equality that resonate within our Constitution and throughout the pursuit of democracy worldwide. For too long over recent times, we have stood on the sides in addressing the clear disparities between race and demographics regarding economic vitality, academic success, employment stability, and health sustainability. Instead, far too often, we have leaned on the popular catch-phrases and half-baked rhetorical arguments that espouse blind partisanship, not bold and empowering leadership. The friendship that grew between America and Mandela from Carter to Clinton and presidents in between must serve as a lesson learned by conservatives on how and why we must be present in the vigilant fight for justice in all realms, not merely for red-state bastions and safe districts.
For progressives, this crossroads is another point where the power of leadership and focused patriotism must hold gravitas over the desire to win political optics in the media and majority-rule in the halls of government. Winning popularity polls or manufactured debates in Congress does not win the day and, just the same, it will not allow us as a nation to win the future moving forward. As long as hyper-partisanship from the left continues the separation of America through its winner-take-all mentality, the legacy of Mandela – a healing president that served South Africa after enduring a brutal sacrifice for decades – is lost upon President Obama and his party leaders.
It is a hope for America that the sunset of Mandela’s life can shine a sanitizing light of hope for a new direction in politics, race relations, civic engagement, and society building as we move past the woes of the past decade in America. If a political prisoner can become president, a divided house can stand united together again.
LENNY MCALLISTER ( @lennymcallister ) is an internationally-recognized political commentator and former congressional candidate that is regularly featured on several national and international outlets including Canada’s Sun News Network, Al Jazeera America, Radio New Zealand and Sirius-XM Radio. His daily podcast “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” on www.LennyMcAllister.com. Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” regularly on The American Urban Radio Network.