Mandela's life, his tenacity to never lose sight of hope, his willingness to fight even at times when all seemed lost, is perfectly captured in a new YouTube video posted by George the Poet.
George, a 22-year-old British man, is a spoken-word poet with more views on YouTube and Vimeo than Carol Ann Duffy, the current UK Poet Laureate. In his most recent work, he pays his respect to the late Mandela as he walks towards a candle-lit tribute in Mandela's honor.
In the process, George uses the story of Mandela's life to transform hope into something much more than a wish. After all, for Mandela, hope was indeed actionable. George professes,
"27 years is a long time to hope
27 years is a long time to pray
27 years is 27 reasons for me to stand here with a strong mind today
because I can't claim to have faith
If I only believe when it's safe"
With that, the poem hits home. Nelson Mandela will forever be historic. He was and remains a revolutionary, a visionary, a man whose life people of all races and genders can celebrate, admire, and mimic. And while his presidency and his political stance will always serve as reminders of what a good man in a position of power can accomplish, it is his time in prison — 27 years — that speaks volumes to his character.
Hope is a crucial human emotion. Yet, despite the power that is hope, few of us can claim to retain it, much less nurture it, for 27 years. In prison, for nearly three decades, locked away, shut out and shut down, there seemed to be little reason for hope. But not for Mandela.
In the end, hope is what saved not only Mandela, not only South Africa, but the past few generations, each of whom have been individually touched by the actions of a man who they tried to silence.
George's poem draws a clear line between Mandela's hope for the future and the future that he was eventually able to create. George makes it clear that each and every one of us has this power to create.
If we only hope when it seems easy to do so, we can't make any ripple of change.