The late 80s and early 90s were a great time to be alive. 1989 saw the collapse of Communist dictatorships throughout Eastern Europe. In December 1991, the Soviet Union itself was disbanded. With the end of the Cold War, some people (perhaps naïvely) spoke of a “peace dividend.” We could use money and resources devoted to weapons for better purposes.
But it’s the scene on February 11, 1990, that sticks in my mind. I remember that it was a Sunday morning, and as we were preparing to go to church, the television in the kitchen was on. A quite remarkable thing was happening. Nelson Mandela was walking through the gates of the prison where he had been held. In church that morning, I gave as a reason to praise the Lord that Mandela was free. It was a pretty conservative church, so I’m not sure everyone that morning agreed with me.
In any event, four years later, he became the president of South Africa. When so many in the country were screaming for vengeance, Mandela said “no.” He provided true leadership for all South Africans. He is one of the very few heads of state who deserved to be called a world leader.