Role Models - Inspiration

Recently, I watched an interview by the past President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, regarding what he learnt from his good friend, Nelson Mandela (President of South Africa at the same time). He talked about asking Nelson Mandela if he was angry with the authorities for his imprisonment in South Africa. Mandela replied that he was angry for 11 or so years with the authorities because they had taken everything from him, including his dignity, his life, seeing his children grow up and ultimately, his marriage. However, after 11 years, he decided he would not let the authorities take away his mind and heart also. So, he moved forward, forgave and later became the President of South Africa. He then told Clinton, “and you shouldn’t lose your mind and heart either”.

Bill Clinton also told two stories with affection, regarding Nelson Mandela. The first was how he often rung Mandela to discuss important world issues, to which Mandela would always ask to speak to his daughter, Chelsea. Chelsea would come to the phone and Mandela would ask her, “Are you keeping up with your homework? How is school going?” Clinton spoke about Mandela as a person first and powerful figure second. No matter how important the issue, he was a person whose first priority was always people and others. The second story was a chance meeting Mandela had with a young South African girl when walking with Clinton one day. He stopped and asked the young woman, “Do you know who I am?” She replied, “You are the President of South Africa.” Mandela replied, “You can also be president, if you study hard.” Clinton spoke of Mandela as always trying to bring the best out of people. He always tried to make people feel taller and to be part of the future for South Africa. Nelson Mandela’s outstanding qualities, leadership and saintly manner will never be forgotten.

On August 8th, Australia celebrates its own Saint, Mary MacKillop (1842 – 1909). She too, had her difficult times, wrestling with the authorities of the Church to the point where she was ex-communicated from the Church and then later pardoned. Mary Mackillop lived above and beyond these hardships being remembered for her sheer determination to love and care for the poor of Australia, setting up schools in cities and outback Australia, opening orphanages, providences to care for the homeless and destitute, both old and young and providing refuges for ex-prisoners and prostitutes. Mary Mackillop too, was a person of outstanding qualities, leadership and saintly gifts.

On this the feast day of our first Australian saint, Mary Mackillop, let us pray to and emulate the example, she, and all saints have left us today. May all young men of St Mary’s College be inspired by our role models like Nelson Mandela and Mary MacKillop.

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