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Appreciate Mandela while you can

Last updated on January 29, 2012

Nelson Mandela will turn 90 soon and, much to my dismay, his birthday has not been declared an international holiday. I have no choice but to declare it a personal holiday and spend it thinking about Mandela and the great example of his life, while sipping beer on the couch. Let the wife take out the trash.
Nelson MandelaWife: “What are you drinking at this time of the day?”

Me: “It’s not what I’m drinking that’s important. It’s what I’m thinking.”

Wife: “I know what you’re thinking — that you need to do more drinking.”

Me: “No, I’m thinking about Nelson Mandela. Did you know that he spent 27 years in prison, then came out and reconciled with his oppressors? That means that there’s still hope for Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.”

Wife: “Exactly how much have you had to drink?”

Actually, the only beer I drink is ginger beer. But I do occasionally drink wine and I’m hoping to raise a toast to the great man. Of course, one toast may not be enough. I’ll probably have to toast him all day.

Me (raising glass): “To Mandela. May he live until he’s 125.”

Wife: “Isn’t that your 125th toast today?”

Me: “Yeah, but don’t worry: I’m going to take a break for breakfast. I’m starving.”

Wife: “What are you going to have?”

Me: “Toast, of course. So I can raise it in Mandela’s honor.”

I hope everyone takes a moment to appreciate Mandela, for he won’t be around forever. If you have a chance to see him, don’t miss the opportunity. Make a pilgrimage to South Africa, if you have to. If you can’t afford the plane ticket, try going there on a raft. Even a piece of Styrofoam might work. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Mandela is the Gandhi of our time and if you’re lucky enough to exchange a few words with him or shake his hand, you’ll be able to brag about it for the rest of your life. You’ll be the envy of everyone you meet. It’ll be better than having tickets to the Wimbledon final. It’ll be better than having a backstage pass at a U2 concert. It’ll be better than having a child with Tom Brady.

Stranger: “Excuse me, is that the hand that once shook Mandela’s hand?”

You (smiling broadly): “Yes, indeed. He put both his hands around it.”

Stranger: “Wow, that’s amazing. Do you allow people to shake it?”

You: “Yes, of course I do. Will you be using Visa or MasterCard?”

Stranger: “Do you accept cash?”

You: “Cash? This is 2025. Who uses cash anymore?”

Before you travel to South Africa, you need to make sure Mandela will be there. He’s in demand all over the world. He has to attend concerts in his honor, unveil statues of himself on every continent and, of course, have tea at Buckingham Palace. He does it all with such grace and class, even whispering to the Queen that she need not bow.

Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak and other leaders could learn from his example. He was elected president of South Africa in 1994 and, after serving one term, decided to step down, though he was only 81. He doesn’t need power — he has something far greater: integrity.

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