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Three Anecdotes from the Life of Nelson Mandela

RUGBY-WC-FINAL 95-ZAF-NZEveryone is sharing memories about Nelson Mandela, so I thought I should do the same.  No, I never met him.  These are stories from famous people you may have heard of who knew him personally.  As I ate my breakfast this morning reading Time (Dec. 23, 2013, the Pope Francis Man of the Year, issue) these three stories affected me powerfully.

1) From Bono (if you haven’t heard of him, he sings).  Mandela “could charm the birds off the trees–and cash right out of wallets.” He told me once how Margret Thatcher had personally donated £20,000 to his foundation. ‘How did you do that?’ I gasped. The Iron Lady, who was famously frugal, kept a tight grip on her purse. ‘I asked,’ he said with a laugh. ‘You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.” Then he lowered conspiratorially and said her donations had nauseated some of his cohort. ‘Didn’t she try to squash our movement?’ they complained. His response, ‘Didn’t De Klerk crush our people like flies? And I’m having tea with him next week…He’ll be getting the bill.'”

2) From Morgan Freeman (if you haven’t heard of him, he acts). Mandela initially suggested that Freeman play him in a film. “Nearly 20 years after our first meeting, my company Revelations had the unique pleasure of developing and producing the film Invictus (see #3), with me in the role of Mandela. Consistent with his true character, his only comment after we first screened the movie for him was a humble, ‘Now perhaps people will remember me…'”

3) From Francois Pienaar (if you haven’t heard of him he plays rugby, watch Invictus, pictured with Mandela). “In Pollsmoor Prison, a warden told me a story. On Monday night, it was his job to show movies to the four prisoners, including Mandela. Once, he complained about not having a fresh cup of coffee. So the next Monday night, Madiba (Mandela’s Xhosa clan name) walks over to him with a fresh cup and two biscuits, gives them to him, walks back and watches the movie. The warden was, I would say, very conservative. Yet when he told his story, he was charged. He was shaking.”

This last one moved me to tears.

What have been your favorite Mandela stories you’ve heard in the past few weeks?

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