Former ambassador reflects on Mandela's legacy

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Updated: 12/07/2013 5:12 am
"The one single monumental achievement was launching 'The new South Africa' in the direction that he launched it in."

Reflecting on the legacy of Nelson Mandela, former Ambassador to Ethiopia Tibor Nagy said the way he went about his work was as important as the work itself. 

"When South Africa transitioned from white minority rule to majority rule, he could have treated the white minority very, very bitterly," Nagy said. "But instead, he was adamant about trying to build a multi-racial South Africa, and of not seeking retribution and revenge, which of course gets into a cycle."

From around the globe, those accolades have reverberated. 

"He was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you," Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

"Nelson Mandela was a wonderful man," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "he was wise, warm-hearted and humorous, as I was able to experience during my visit."

His death hit a nerve with Ambassador Nagy, who spent nearly 25 years in Africa with the Foreign Service, having to disavow what Mandela was trying to advance from a prison cell. 

"As a diplomat, I had to treat Mandela, for much of my career, with less than the highest admiration because we had very close relations with the apartheid regime in South Africa, until the U.S. Congress decided to pass laws to basically cutting South Africa off economically," Nagy said.

"Growing up in South Africa was a pretty neat thing, especially after Nelson Mandela kind of brought on the legacy he stands for now," Nyasha Alufayi, who now calls Lubbock home, said.

Alufayi said of all Mandela accomplished, the message that will endure is a simple one. 

"One of my very favorite quotes from his is, 'There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living', and I think that message speaks to all ages, all people, that they just don't settle," Alufayi said.

"That one individual, even a down-trodden political prisoner, can make a huge difference to the future and destiny of their country," Nagy said. "Never give up."
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