mandelaHe was one of the greatest, and we are fortunate to have lived while he lived.

Nelson Mandela, the revered South African anti-apartheid icon who spent 27 years in prison, led his country to democracy and became its first black president, died Thursday at home. He was 95.

“He is now resting,” said South African President Jacob Zuma. “He is now at peace.”

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” he continued. “Our people have lost a father.”

A state funeral will be held, and Zuma called for mourners to conduct themselves with “the dignity and respect” that Mandela personified.

Greg Laden’s tribute is beautiful:

Imagine going back in time to visit Nelson Mandela in prison and telling him this: “You will live through this and be free, you’ll lead your country and set an unattainable example of leadership, you’ll retire as president and die at a very old age. The violence associated with the end of Apartheid will be so little it will be mostly forgotten. There will be truth. And reconciliation.” That would have been a remarkable, impossible prediction at the time, because he was clearly destine to die in prison, and there was little possibility of reconciliation and there was every chance of bloodshed. Then you could add something equally unlikely: “There is a young African American man at a protest rally in the United States right now, agitating against apartheid. Long after your release from prison and your presidency, he will become the President of the United States and he will, in eulogizing you on your death, mention that his first political act was to protest racial injustice in your land.”

As we remember Mandela, meditate on these words he wrote:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion,” he wrote in “Long Walk to Freedom.”

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”