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Baron: Mandela can inspire Bermudians through adversity

Nelson Mandela’s critical condition prompted Senator Jeff Baron to reflect on the lessons the former South African President has for many people in Bermuda facing adversity.

Sen Baron told the Senate in yesterday’s motion to adjourn that he wanted to celebrate Mr Mandela’s life before he passed.

Mr Mandela is in an unresponsive state in a hospital in South Africa.

Sen Baron said he had done some reading about Mr Mandela’s life and was struck by how he had triumphed over adversity.

“Its not just an appealing story. It is Nelson Mandela’s legacy alone. There is no other example of optimism and facing adversity than Nelson Mandela in my mind,” he said.

“So when I’m sitting in living rooms of mothers of three with the lights out because they can’t afford to pay Belco — talking to them about their challenges and how they are trying to face adversity and to mothers who have lost sons to gang violence and grandmothers who take a 40-minute bus ride into Dockyard to work for three hours a day just to get health insurance to pay for medication, or to a 20-year-old who doesn’t know what to do with his life and feels that his friend who died at 20 years old to gang violence had lived a full life — these are stories of adversity.”

He said Mr Mandela’s own words on adversity could provide some encouragement.

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death,” he said, quoting Mr Mandela.

Sen Baron told his colleagues that many Bermudians were facing their own Robben Island where Mr Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years in a cell the size of the Senate table.

“For him to be the person he is today, for him to unite a nation and unite the world and expand and enrich race relations throughout the world is remarkable considering what he was subjected to by his oppressors,” he said.

“But bringing it back home here, those who are living who feel that they are living in despair that they are worthless because they can’t pay bills and that they can’t overcome their adversities should remember the life of Nelson Mandela and what he has gone through.”

Sen Baron told

The Royal Gazette after the sitting that he wanted to celebrate Mr Mandela’s life and relate it to Bermuda before he dies.

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Published June 27, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm)

Baron: Mandela can inspire Bermudians through adversity

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