Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Obama is the new Mandela - Really?

Over the past few days I have heard several references to Barack Obama as the world's new Nelson Mandela. I have some reservations about jumping to this comparison.

While Barack Obama has certainly made history by becoming the first black president of the United States, he has yet to prove his ability to unite a country divided by race, economic status, religious views and political viewpoint. There is no doubt that Obama showed tremendous statemanship during his campaign but the jury is still out on whether this will be continued during his presidency.

Nelson Mandela is regarded as an elder statesman and an icon to millions of people whom he lead into a new era of freedom in his country. Barack Obama is neither an "elder statesman" who has "earned his stripes", nor has he yet lead his country into a new era.

Obama certainly faces challenges and he will be given plenty of opportunity to prove his worth and whether he can live up to the high expectations of those who place so much of their trust in him.

Those leaders who live on in the conscience of human history are those who have endured for the benefit of many, those who have placed the needs of their people over their personal needs, those who show that their actions match their words, those who exhibit a level of personal leadership that speaks for itself and those whose very name elicits an awed response.

Although I believe that Barack Obama certainly has the makings of a high-level leader and that he will be a very successful president, I do not believe that it is appropriate to compare him to Nelson Mandela. If anything that very comparison weakens the legacy of Madiba.

Let's allow history to judge the legacy of Barack Obama and not get caught up in Obamamania. His stamp on history will be examined in years to come and his influence will be considered long after his tenure as President of the US has been completed.

Links :

1) Obama's victory like Mandela's: Tutu

2) Text of Nelson Mandela’s Letter to Senator Obama (New York Times)

3) A nation could be on the verge of its Mandela moment (Guardian newspaper - UK)

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