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Saints and Sinners - Stephanie Renée
Dec 8, 2013

Learning the lessons of Mandela, in more ways than one

Much will be said over the course of the next week--on WURD's airwaves and every other news outlet, great and small--about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Those who seek to whitewash revolutionary spirits will try to reduce Mandela's memory to a few choice sound bytes or actions, as they have with Martin Luther King, Jr. They will speak of his failings, not his fire. They'll celebrate a few of his choice victories, but find small insidious ways to diminish the depth of his vision. And somehow, we'll find ways to downplay our role in furthering the hard work of bringing peace and equality to all people. The conversation will turn to how Mandela fell short, not how very far he ran with the ball that few others had the courage to carry.

One of my favorite quotes from Mandela has made its way out of several people's mouths on the air last week. Upon his release from prison after 27 years of maintaining a steadfast commitment to black South Africans' right to bear arms to aid in their own liberation, someone asked Mandela if he considered himself a saint because of the extent of his great sacrifice. His reply:

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

So let it be, with all WURD listeners, staff and supporters. Let us earn our entrance into whatever pain-free place we believe the hereafter holds by doing the good, hard work of continuing to build Mandela's legacy through our own diligence. Let us see poverty as a sin, and prejudice as a malady that must be healed. And let us be clear that success will never be won on the back of one charismatic leader, but through the steadfast commitment of each one of us, living our lives with purpose and creating positive change where we can.

Here is last week's playlist (missing a few from Thursday's live broadcast, when the day's songs were not written down):

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In 2009 WURD launched a highly acclaimed symposium series called WURD Speaks, which gathers local, national and internationally renowned experts to share insights on issues ranging from health care, education and economic development to arts and culture and civic engagement.