Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Memoir: It’s back!

I have written about this already, but I feel the need to give you an update on the progress I am beginning to make — yet again — on a project I decided to undertake.

A memoir of my career is in the works. What’s new about it? Well, I had put it on ice for far too long. I would get busy, distracted, tired out and wouldn’t spend the time I needed to complete it.

It’s going to be a compilation of the people I met and some of the cool things I was able to do and places I was able to see while working as a newspaper journalist for nearly 37 years.

My bride gave me the idea to write it and to give it to members of our family. Kathy Anne and I soon will celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary, a fact I just thought I’d throw out there, as it has no particular significance to the memoir I am writing, except that the memoir was her idea in the first place.

My career enabled me to meet some fascinating figures. Some of them were historic figures, indeed. You’ll read about a couple of presidents of the United States, one foreign head of state, a few who wanted to be POTUS. You’ll read about notable journalists with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and — in a couple of cases — actually get to know on a personal level.

I once stood in the same room with one of history’s most iconic and revered figures. I didn’t meet him, but just standing about 40 feet away was enough to overwhelm me. Spoiler alert: That person was Nelson Mandela. 

I don’t have a title for this piece of work. I’ll come up with one about the time I finish it. I once wrote that I wasn’t sure I could ever finish it. I have changed my mind. It’ll come to an end.

Here’s what I wrote earlier about it: Memoir in the works | High Plains Blogger

I once was the model of self-discipline. Once I set my mind to something, nothing stood in my way. That drive has waned just a bit as I have grown older.

But the way I look at it all right now, at this stage of my life, I realize that I have lived most of my life already. The clock is ticking, which means I have to get busy and finish this project.

Therefore, I will do so.


Tutu’s legacy towers over world

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Desmond Tutu

The great man did many “little bits of good” that indeed overwhelmed the world. Desmond Tutu died today at age 90.

He was arguably the world’s pre-eminent foe of the oppressive regime that kept most of South Africa’s population in a form of bondage. He fought to free the nation’s black majority of the apartheid philosophy that had governed that country since its founding.

He was an Anglican priest who embodied the kind of peaceful resistance that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made famous in this country.

The great man retired from public life in 2010, but his legacy as a champion for freedom for most of those who lived in South Africa was well-established. He stood alongside the great Nelson Mandela to lead his country out of its oppression to a new era of enlightenment and freedom.

Desmond Tutu did not need to do one great thing to “overwhelm the world.” He lived by the thought he expressed. He was a champion.


Comparing this criminal to Mandela?

I will not use Michael Flynn’s name in the same sentence with one of the world’s greatest champions.

Yet the Donald Trump cultists who believe Flynn deserves to be treated as a persecuted champion of some glorious cause are committing absolute heresy.

They compare the convicted felon to Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison because he protested South Africa’s hideous racial policy of apartheid. Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and then became president of South Africa. He stands at this moment as one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen.

Now we have Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his role in the Russian attack on our election in 2016. Donald Trump hired him as national security adviser, then let him go when he became entangled in the Russia probe launched by the FBI. Now the Justice Department has decided to no longer prosecute Flynn for the felony to which he admitted. Trump has hailed the DOJ decision.

Comparing this clown to Nelson Mandela, though, simply goes so far beyond the pale that I am left speechless. I cannot find the words that express adequately my outrage.

As Essence reported: “Years ago when Nelson Mandela came to America after years of political persecution, he was treated like a rock star by Americans,” John McLaughlin, one of President Trump’s chief pollsters, told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “Now after over three years of political persecution, General Flynn is our rock star. A big difference is that he was persecuted in America.”

Michael Flynn wasn’t “persecuted.” He admitted to committing a felony. He told the judge in open court that he was pleading guilty because he did the deed. There was no coercion. And there damn sure wasn’t any persecution.

Disgraceful. Again!

Good bye, good riddance to the tyrant Mugabe

Robert Mugabe’s legacy surely will be carved in stone.

He became the first head of government in 1980 of a newly renamed country that at that time was the model of prosperity in Africa. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and Mugabe became the country’s first prime minister.

He later became its president. What happened then over the course of the next three-plus decades is shameful in the extreme.

Zimbabwe devolved from prosperity to abject poverty and deprivation. Mugabe wanted to govern the country until he died. He didn’t quite make it. He was forced out in 2017.

Mugabe died this week at the age of 95. The world should not mourn this guy’s passing. It should instead declare that Earth is a better place without him.

He took office as a revolutionary, promising even greater prosperity for his constituents. He delivered nothing but misery and mayhem. Zimbabwe plunged into a state of utter despair under Mugabe’s iron-fisted, ham-handed, brutal rule.

How does one dare call that a successful transition?

I cannot.

He saw himself as Africa’s model of reform, known around the world as a statesman. Then in 1990, something remarkable happened. A real statesman was released from prison in South Africa. Nelson Mandela took control of his country and emerged as one of the world’s pre-eminent champions of political reform. He eclipsed Mugabe almost immediately.

Mugabe’s tyrannical rule has virtually ruined his country.

So long, Mr. Dictator.

Bill Cosby: He’s no Mandela, MLK Jr. or Gandhi

I don’t usually comment on convicted criminals, but I cannot let this issue pass without offering a brief response.

Bill Cosby, the formerly revered comedian and actor, is now a convicted sexual assailant. A jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman. He’s now spending three to 10 years in prison.

But now he says he doesn’t feel remorse because he is a “political prisoner,” in the mold of Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

No, he isn’t.

Hmm. Mandela was held on Robben Island for 27 years because he protested apartheid in South Africa; Dr. King was held in jail because he opposed oppression of African-Americans in the United States; Gandhi was imprisoned because he wanted independence for India.

Yep, those great men were political prisoners.

Bill Cosby is in the slammer because he was convicted of sexual assault. There is absolutely zero moral equivalence between what he did and why the men to whom he compares himself were denied their freedom.

Be quiet, Mr. Cosby, and do your time.

Time of My Life, Part 2: In the presence of greatness

I once belonged to an organization called the National Conference of Editorial Writers. The group occasionally sponsored remarkable overseas trips to members, editorial writers and editors such as yours truly.

In the summer of 2004, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand. It was my second trip to Southeast Asia with NCEW; the first one was in 1989, and I am likely to tell about that journey at another time.

This installment wants to focus on my being in the same room with one of history’s towering giants.

The AIDS conference focused on the disease that ravages so many millions of human beings. Our journey was aimed at studying the impact of the disease on Asia; in Thailand, Cambodia and India.

But there was a side story to cover as well. Tuberculosis is another killer, communicable disease that afflicted this great man: I refer to Nelson Mandela.

The former South African president came to Bangkok to tell attendees that TB needs the world’s attention, too.

Mandela staged a press availability in a room full of attendees, including our NCEW delegation. I stood about 30 feet from the microphone where Mandela would stand and speak.

He contracted TB during his imprisonment on Robben Island, where he was held prisoner for 27 years before his release in 1990. He had the temerity to protest against South Africa’s apartheid policies; the government threw him in the slammer because he demanded human rights for all of his country’s citizens, not just the white minority that ran everything.

By 2004, Mandela’s place in world history had been established. He stood as a giant among giants. To see this man in person was one of the thrills of my life as a working journalist.

I remember seeing him walk into the room and I was struck by something that was said about Robert Kennedy, which was that when RFK walked into a room, everyone else turned to black-and-white, while Bobby stood in magnificent color.

You could say the same thing about Nelson Mandela.

The great man told us about TB, his struggle to overcome it and urged the HIV/AIDS conference attendees to look for cures to TB. He took a couple of questions and then left.

We were instructed before Mandela came into the room to avoid flash photography, as he had developed acute sensitivity to bright lights during all those years he was kept in the dark on Robben Island. And, to no one’s surprise, some nimrods in the crowd took pictures with blinding flashes of light.

I didn’t get to speak to the great man. I don’t even know what in the name of star-struck wonder I would have said to him.

To be totally candid, just being able to see this man in the flesh was enough of a thrill to last my entire lifetime.

Obama speaks out in semi-muted tone

Barack H. Obama by and large has refrained from criticizing his successor as president of the United States.

Then he stood on a podium today in South Africa to honor the memory of the late Nelson Mandela.

The 44th president said a lot of things that observers know to be critical of Donald J. Trump. He didn’t mention the president by name. He didn’t need to do that.

The audience knew about whom he was referring when he said, for instance, the following: “Too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth,” Obama said. “People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up.”

He referenced the embrace of authoritarian regimes. He spoke about the politics of “fear” and “retrenchment.” He took a nod toward the angry rhetoric that imbues our current political discussion.

About whom do you think he was speaking?

You can read the full transcript of the former president’s speech here.

I remain one American who misses the kind of dignity I had come to expect in my president. Barack Obama embodied that. George W. Bush did as well. Same for Bill Clinton (except for that one terrible episode that tarnished his presidency).

What we’re getting these days is a lesson in crudeness, clumsiness, ignorance, anger and rage.

This is unity? This is how you make America great again?

Barack Obama arguably could have done better at unifying the country. Then again, there were many Americans who wouldn’t rally behind him under any circumstance. I know you get my drift.

His speech today in South Africa, however, lays out a dire warning about the quality of so-called “leadership” we are getting in this troubling time.

“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts,” he said. Yes, “the facts” can be frightening, indeed.

Donald Trump, remember Nelson Mandela?

This photo has gone viral. It showed up on my Twitter and Facebook feeds today.

I thought I’d share it here, with a couple of quick comments.

One is that the quote from Donald J. Trump makes no equivocation about how he believes he has been treated. The phrase “No politician in history” excludes no one. It’s the height of hyperbole.

There’s that.

Two, the picture is of the late Nelson Mandela. He is looking out from his prison cell on Robben Island, in South Africa. He was held prisoner there for 27 years before being released in 1990.

His “crime”? Mandela protested his country’s apartheid policies, the law that kept black and white people separate and denied black South Africans the basic rights of citizenship. Things like, oh, voting, home ownership, the freedom to speak their minds in public. Small stuff like that.

The government scrapped its apartheid policies shortly after his release from prison and Mandela later would be elected president of South Africa.

This great man was treated far worse and “unfairly” than Donald J. Trump has been treated.

I just had to get that off my chest.

Obama set to meet Castro

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are going to attend a meeting together this weekend.

They’ll shake hands. They’ll talk to each other. They’ll likely exchange an idea or two about the changing relationship between their two countries. And much of the world will be hanging on every look, gesture and spoken word.

Is this a big deal? Yes. But perhaps not for reasons that some have given for it.

Obama, Raúl Castro get ready for historic meeting

This won’t be a meeting between equals. Obama is head of state of the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power. Castro heads a third-rate, Third World nation that folks once thought posed some sort of threat to the United States of America.

Cuba never really did pose that threat. What danger existed essentially evaporated right along with the Soviet Union in 1991. Still, U.S. and Cuban relations remained frozen in time.

That’s changing now that Obama and Castro have agreed to proceed toward normalization. The economic, travel and diplomatic embargoes are going to end in due course. Cuba will get to become an actual neighbor of the United States.

The leaders will meet at the Summit of the Americas. They shook hands briefly at a memorial service for the great Nelson Mandela a couple of years ago. This meeting is supposed to signal the start of a new relationship.

Yes, critics chide Obama for ignoring Cuba’s human rights issues. Sure thing. As if we don’t have diplomatic ties with other nations around the world with dubious human rights reputations. Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China — they all come to mind. I believe it was President Reagan who followed what was called a policy of “constructive engagement” with South Africa when that nation was operating under its apartheid policy that denied its black majority any rights of citizenship.

This meeting is long overdue. The Cuban Missile Crisis has receded into history. Raul Castro’s brother, Fidel, has retired from his lifetime job as president, is in frail health and appears to no longer be the commanding presence in the island nation.

The time arrived long ago for the nations to establish a formal relationship.

It’s good that Barack Obama and Raul Castro are going to that important step together.

Speak carefully … always

Secretary of State John Kerry is the latest victim of the urge to record everything everyone says every time they say it.

That does not for a moment excuse what he said the other day in what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, which is that Israel may be turning into an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t hammer out a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


The term “apartheid” is poison in polite international policy company. South Africa implemented that disgraceful policy for many decades in which it denied the black majority living there the rights of citizenship. Whites and blacks couldn’t interact with each other. The policy ended with the release from prison in the early 1990s of the late Nelson Mandela. The rest is history.

Kerry’s use of the term at the very least was careless. It well may have damaged U.S.-Israel relations beyond repair.

Why wasn’t he smarter than to make his point another way? Didn’t he learn from recent history, such as the time Mitt Romney was caught on an audio recording at a fundraising dinner making his infamous “47 percent” remarks about how nearly half of Americans are going to vote Democratic because they depend on government subsidies and handouts? Didn’t he learn from the video recording of Congressman Vance McAllister making out with his staffer? There are countless other instances of people in high places being caught saying and doing things they regret because someone had a recording device hidden somewhere.

A Daily Beast reporter recorded Kerry’s statements the other day, getting past detection and apparently not heeding ground rules stipulating the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

In this world of instant communication where everyone has a set of electronic eyes and ears, the only response simply is: Too bad.