Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We Day co-founder reflects

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FREE the Children and We Day co-founder Marc Kielburger was at a conference at Oxford University when he suddenly found himself alone with Nelson Mandela.

"We just chatted -- it was surreal," Kielburger said Thursday evening from Toronto. "I had a chance for a private moment with him, and asked a question: How did you do it?"

How did Mandela survive all those years in prison and become South Africa's first black president without hatred or retribution?

"He said, 'I led my sheep from behind,' " said Kielburger. "He talked about being a shepherd. It wasn't about him, it was about the larger issues -- he wasn't trying to be out front, to be a symbol."

But by living the way he did, Mandela became a symbol, said Kielburger.

"This is a very profound evening. This is the night he's passing on the baton," Kielburger said. "This is a very important day for our generation."

Kielburger was in South Africa the day in 1995 when Mandela spoke before the final match of the Rugby World Cup, won by South Africa after Mandela had brought the country together behind a national team dominated by whites.

"It was electric," he said.

"He's one of those iconic figures. It doesn't matter if you're nine or 92, everyone knows how important he was," Kielburger said. "There's so few people in the world who fall into that category."

 

-- Nick Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2013 A4

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