Nelson Mandela is gone, and with him goes the steadying influence he brought to governments across Africa. While he lived, those in power had an example of steadfast forgiveness from a different kind of liberation leader.
Mandela was a complex man - branded a traitor and terrorist by many, beloved and revered by many more. But there is no doubt his effort to end apartheid in South Africa and his presidency of that country afterward made him a great leader.
Militant in his youth, Mandela reached the pinnacle, and dragged his countrymen with him. He understood it would take statesmanship and subtlety that required far greater skill to turn that accomplishment into lasting success.
One oft-cited example of his desire to display real forgiveness and equality is his support of South Africa's mostly white rugby team in 1995. He showed his support by donning a team jersey and walking onto the playing field.
"That crowd, which was almost exclusively white ... started to chant his name. That one act of putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa," according to his longtime bodyguard, Rory Steyn.
It was simply a sporting event, but Mandela knew no aspect of South African life could go unaltered in his quest to end rampant discrimination and bring his country back together.
Mandela is gone. What he accomplished should serve as a model for others.