A few weeks ago, I suggested that DJT’s writers learn from the worst: Don’t channel Warren G. Harding!
I hereby conclude my free advice by suggesting the President-elect also learn from the best. And the inaugural speech I have in mind is not by an American president – but by Nelson Mandela.
Now, before steam rises from your ears and your fingers leap to the keyboard to protest, let me be clear: I am acutely aware that there well may be no two people more different in personal history, character, judgement, and values than Mandela and Trump. (That’s right, you just saw “Mandela” and “Trump” in the same sentence.)
Still, I think our new president could (and certainly should) learn a lot from the words of South Africa’s first black president.
Mandela spoke after an historic, decades long struggle for freedom that took many lives, cost Mandela and thousands of others their freedom, and left his nation bitterly divided. His inauguration speech is an extraordinary message of reconciliation and human dignity.
Almost 25 years later, it still inspires and uplifts. Here are just a few samples
- To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld….
- Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change….
- The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
- The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
- The time to build is upon us……
- We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world…
Of course, America 2017 is radically different than 1994 South Africa. Still, we have gone through an extraordinarily divisive election, and our political system is more polarized than I can remember. If President Trump wants to set a new tone, he could start on inauguration day…by following the example of President Mandela.