I learned the opening words of the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelele Afrika, my freshman year of college. They've stayed with me ever since. It's difficult to know what to say at the death of a person so significant to the story of their time, as Nelson Mandela.
But we're live on TV, and as one of the few Africans on air in the United States I feel compelled to say something. Typically when we see images of Africa in the news, it's always the same old story - it's death, destruction, warfare, hopelessness, or hands reaching out for a hand-out. It gets so old, so tired, to hear your story twisted into a thousand tales none of which manages to encompass the profundity, the power, the beauty, the sadness and the wonder of the truth.
And the truth is "Africa" is BIG. Big in size, big in spirit, big in potential, in reality so much bigger than you think. And in the second largest continent on earth it is difficult to speak of any universal truth, when multitudes still yearn for a chance to speak their own.
But one thing I know is this. When the world turns it's collective voice to speak of Nelson Mandela, we hear something altogether different than the usual sordid stories. We hear honor, reverence, we hear genuine love, admiration and pride.
I think for me that is what I will take most from the life of Madiba. That in the face of all odds, he was willing to be a bigger man than anyone could have expected, or imagined. And in being the best he could. He made all of us proud.