Living Nelson Mandela’s Words

The world would be a lot better place if leaders lived up to Nelson’s Mandela’s legacy.

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Many world leaders attended the service for Nelson Mandela. The question is what did they take away from it? Great speeches were made for an even greater man but we know words come easier than deeds or legacies. If each of the leaders who attended the service (or paid there respects remotely) took away one of the belief Mandela evoked how would the world change?

The late South African leader, for example, once said:

What globalization means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom.

If China's President Xi Jinping were to embrace that view perhaps China would not have 800 million of its own people living on less than $15 a day.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Suppose President Obama were to follow Mandela's suggestion that "there are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way." Perhaps we might see the kind of leadership that does not doom him to obscurity.

If the Palestinians and Israelis embraced "It always seems impossible until it's done," perhaps we might see a glimmer of hope for peace in the Middle East.

If the dictators of the world understood that "it is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones" perhaps they would learn the meaning of benevolence?

If the countries using child soldiers acknowledge "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children" perhaps humanity can return to their lands.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

If Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded that "there is no such thing as part freedom" he would create the great legacy that he desperately strives for – leaving his nation finally at peace with its self.

If the Castro brothers embraced the notion that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" Cubans could prosper and rejoin the global community.

If some of the Arab Spring countries embraced "as I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison" they could witness their countries evolving into functioning nations.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on North Korea.]

If each and every Egyptian remembers that they have taken turns feeling the following at one point in their lives "that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking about peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people" then perhaps a more enlightened government can rule what is seemingly ungovernable now.

If the common man, who has been wronged in some way, understood that "resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies" we may all enjoy happier and healthier lives.

Mandela's deeds have been immortalized and his legacy can only grow if each global leader adopts one belief of a great man of who the likes we will in all probability not see again in our lifetime.

Scheherazade Rehman is a professor of international finance/business and international affairs at the George Washington University. You can visit her homepage here and follow her on Twitter @Prof_Rehman.