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In His Own Words    by Nelson Mandela order for
In His Own Words
by Nelson Mandela
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

We are told that In His Own Words was published as an 85th birthday gift to the great, 'irrepressible' leader and statesman, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The Forewords are by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and by (42nd) U.S. President Bill Clinton. Kofi Annan speaks warmly of 'Madiba' as 'continuing to fight for reconciliation before recrimination, healing before bitterness, peace before conflict'. Bill Clinton says that 'Mandela's enduring legacy is that, under a crushing burden of oppression he saw through differences, discrimination and destruction to embrace our common humanity.' Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney reflects on Mandela's impact in a wonderful poem that includes 'once in a lifetime / The longed-for tidal wave / Of justice can rise up / And hope and history rhyme.'

There's a biographical essay, 'Nelson Mandela: A Life' by Adrian Hadland, who says 'He has put his enemies to flight and saved his nation with love, forgiveness and understanding.' In his contribution, 'Prometheus Unbound', Fintan O'Toole tells us that Mandela 'has allowed a myth to attain the status of a man, has shown that a legend is elevated rather than diminished when it becomes human.' The great man's own speeches are grouped into categories on 'Struggle', 'Freedom', 'Reconciliation', 'Nation Building', 'Development', 'Education', 'Culture', 'Religion', 'Health', 'Children', 'Heroes', and 'Peace'. Read the speeches and get a glimmering of the history of a long struggle for fairness, freedom, and inclusion. Mandela says repeatedly 'I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society'.

I've long wanted to know more about this great statesman, and what better way to get to understand the man than to read what he himself has said and stood for, as well as what other famous people (including Desmond Tutu, Bill Cosby, Kofi A. Annan and Bill Clinton) have to say about him? This is one I'll keep on my own shelves. And I wish that In His Own Words were required reading for all world leaders, who would benefit from taking to heart words such as: 'history will judge us by our success or failure in turning the tide of poverty'; 'There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children'; and a call for leaders 'who put the well-being of humankind in its entirety above sectarian and narrow national considerations.'

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