Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday at the ripe age of 95. America's first black president, Barack Obama, paused to reflect that he himself was "one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life."
For attorneys, law students, scholars, and clients, Nelson Mandela's legacy inspires us to trust in our legal capabilities, to practice forgiveness over vengeance, and to doggedly press on. As he said, "It always seems impossible until it's done."
Here are five ways Nelson Mandela has left an indelible legal legacy for lawyers around the world:
Fostering LGBT movement. Mandela, whose gift of reconciliation led to South Africa being dubbed a "Rainbow Nation," was also an outspoken advocate of LGBT equality and greatly impacted the gay rights movement. He appointed an openly-gay judge to South Africa's High Court of Appeal. During his presidency, South Africa became the first nation to constitutionally ban sexual orientation-based discrimination.
Launching divestment campaigns. Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) spearheaded the pursuit of "economic weapons" -- divestment, sanctions, and boycotts -- that were essential to dismantling apartheid. Divestment campaigns, the use of concerted boycotts to affect change, are now used to bring attention to global issues like climate change, the fossil fuels industry, "Big Tobacco," and the arms trade. His acumen for creative problem-solving serves as a good lesson for all practitioners to keep thinking out-of-the-box.