6th 2023 Post – Speaking about Mandela

How to Welcome Mandela as Your Mentor

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It has been a deep honor for me to be able to speak about Nelson Mandela over the past many years. I have done so with Federal Bar Associations, State Bar Associations, businesses, churches and synagogues. I have traveled to speak in Miami, Silicon Valley, New York City, Eastern Utah, Baltimore, Fargo and many locations in Minnesota. I have done nothing to promote the talk. Opportunities have arisen by word of mouth from an attendee at a talk promoting it to someone else. I will be speaking at the Basilica in Minneapolis on June 22 – likely to begin at 5:30 with a meal and discussion to follow the presentation.

I want to convey why speaking about Mandela has been such a “deep honor.” President Mandela is a fascinating human being. Each talk I give I start preparing a month in advance so that the talk is fresh and tailor-made for the audience that I attempt to learn about in advance. I am not a historian or an academic. I am not an author. Each talk allows me to re-read and read more about Nelson Mandela’s life. I have read many books and other materials about him. I met him. I traveled to South Africa and visited: Robben Island, the location of his law-firm “Mandela & Tambo” in downtown Johannesburg, and his home in Soweto where he lived a portion of his early married and professional life.

In twice daily meditations, I frequently think about Nelson Mandela, internalizing and deepening my understanding of his inner and outer life.

Nelson Mandela, in life and in death, continues to give a great deal to me and the world. His inspiration for so many in all parts of the globe brings a healing influence. I will always remain forever grateful for the wonderful gifts he has extended to me.

In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years in prison. In 1994 his autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom” was published. Also, in 1994 Mr. Mandela was overwhelmingly elected as the President of South Africa.

On reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, he became my mentor. I had been practicing law at that point for 14 years with no clear mentor. I found in Nelson Mandela a great lawyer. He stood in the shoes of his clients as selflessly as possible and gave them voice. He ultimately stood in the shoes of an entire Country of 45 million people and selflessly led them to forgive. It was an extraordinary series of actions that allowed a Country to begin to heal from unbridled torture, violence, and killings that many could not comprehend forgiving.

In his autobiography so much is covered: the history of South Africa, the history of apartheid, the inner workings of the African National Congress (ANC), his three trials, his early years and his professional lawyering, and the brutality of his imprisonment. Most meaningful to me resulting in him becoming my mentor was his description of his inner life. The active, disciplined, practiced, flexible, and individualized path of his inner life involved reciting out-loud and inwardly poems, Biblical verses and other inspirational writings. It was this active, disciplined process of thinking about thinking that allowed Mandela’s inner Spirit to be revealed. It was out of this developed spiritual awareness that he transformed anger and always saw the good in another even if it required looking past evil. His highly developed spiritual life impacted all in South Africa and many around the world and still does today. I welcomed him as my mentor into my inner life with a bear-hug.

Mandela’s inner spiritual path was congruent with a path I had been pursuing since I was 22 based on guideposts as provided by Owen Barfield, Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, Rudolf Steiner, David Whyte and others. This path has many avenues of approach. It leaves one free to find your own path that is active, disciplined, practiced, flexible and individualized. One aspect of this path is Thinking about Thinking using verses, poems, Biblical or other inspired writings such that the process itself of Thinking about Thinking “REVEALS” a higher Spiritual Self that touches on Eternity, Infinity and Divinity. Nelson Mandela’s long-time self-described path was confirmatory and encouraging of my endeavors.

His personal transformation and strength of spiritual presence is developed much more in the talks I give about his entire life: Titled either the Greatest Human Being or Greatest Lawyer of the 20th century. These talks are referenced on my website williamhenrymanning.com. Here is a link to a recent recording of the talk. If you would like more information about this talk, click here to contact me.