When I met President Mandela for the first time he kindly inscribed a children's version of "Long Walk to Freedom" for my son with the following words: "Best wishes to a future leader of the world." Nelson Mandela is a man and a leader who sees greatness in every human being. It is his faith in us that inspires us. And challenges us. President Mandela once said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us."
This kind of leadership is very empowering. It is a leadership that moves people to fulfil their potential, making each one of us feel special and important. Nelson Mandela is famous for how he interacts with every human being irrespective of position, status or wealth, greeting everyone with his unique warmth and charisma. He has opened our eyes and our hearts to our fellow South Africans of all colours, races and creeds and has helped us to see G-d's image in every face. From him we all understand that each one of us is precious and special, as the Talmud says, "Whosoever saves one life saves an entire world."
When we, for example, are in a massive sports stadium and witness the sea of people we tend to forget that each of them has secret hopes, disappointments, dreams, aspirations and emotions. Each is a unique and wonderful human being who is "an entire world". Nelson Mandela has shown us that a truly great leader has the breadth and generosity of spirit to include rather than to exclude. His is the ability to bind together so many disparate groups of South Africans and to include us all in his vision for the new South Africa.
His reverence for the greatness of the human spirit and its capacity for overcoming adversity is the essence of what inspiring leadership is all about, and also represents an important facet of his humility. The Hebrew Bible teaches, "Moses was the most humble of all people" (Numbers 12:3). Some translate the verse: "Moses was the most humble from all people" - meaning his humility came from seeing greatness in all people; he was humbled by the awesomeness of the human soul, and so is Nelson Mandela.
Those who doubt the potential for greatness of the human spirit need only consider the life of Nelson Mandela. His legendary forgiveness and generosity of spirit, and his faithful and long struggle in the face of terrible adversity serve as testimony to the unlimited potential of the human spirit created in the image of G-d. President Mandela has taught us the courage and strength that comes from knowing our own greatness. He has given us faith in ourselves to realise that we are indeed a nation of heroes blessed by G-d.