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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.” ― Archibald MacLeish

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela and Cory Aquino: Great Freedom Symbols Of the World

Icons of Freedom
“My mother admired him. Like all of us, she would have been deeply saddened by his passing."

“On behalf of the entire Filipino people, I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Mandela, the people of South Africa, and all men and women of peace and goodwill who mourn the passing of a truly great man.

“For today, as Nelson Mandela united his people in the spirit of compassion and inclusiveness, so too does he unite the rest of the world—not only in grief and mourning, but also in respect and admiration for a life lived with strength, courage, humility, and dignity.

"His memory will serve as a durable guide to humanity as we seek to bequeath to future generations a world better than we found it.

“Nelson Mandela was the father of modern South Africa, an exemplar of conscientious resistance to racism, and exponent of reconciliation founded on justice. The life he lived makes us cognizant of those who have suffered persecution, yet refused to allow it to plunge their lives into bitterness or vengeance.

“Whether in the isolation of his prison cell or in subsequently renouncing violence and making possible the abolition of apartheid and the creation of a truly pluralistic South Africa, Nelson Mandela sought to unite his people on the basis of humane aspirations for a just society. He achieved closure through justice, banishing recrimination and hate.

“Above all, he acted out of the desire to uplift his fellow men and women by empowering the aggrieved to rise above hardship—guiding his nation through the crucible of suffering to forge ordinary men and women into peacemakers, freedom fighters, and even statesmen.

"By transcending the wounds of the past, he helped establish a prosperous, inclusive present.

“His unflagging optimism that the world could be a place where prejudice gives way to harmony will therefore continue to serve as a beacon of hope for all humanity.

“On a more personal note, I recall with gratitude and humility the kind words he told me during his visit to the Philippines when I was still a representative. He told me then, 'You chose your parents well.'

“My mother admired him. Like all of us, she would have been deeply saddened by his passing.

"I also understand what the global outpouring of support and sympathy might mean to his family and all South Africans, especially after a long-drawn illness such as the one that he went through.

“We must now all take comfort from the fact that a great man is now at peace, with the Filipino people and all humanity heirs to his example and vision.”
Africa's Greatest Freedom Symbol

The Nobel Peace Prize 1993 was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa"

Son of a chief, Nelson Mandela studied law and became one of South Africa's first black lawyers. Early in the 1950s he was elected leader of the youth wing of the ANC (African National Congress) liberation movement. When the country's white minority government prohibited the ANC in 1960, Mandela became convinced that armed struggle was inevitable. Inspired by the guerrilla wars in Algeria and Cuba, he organized a military underground movement that engaged in sabotage. In 1962 he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for high treason and conspiracy against the state.

From 1964 to 1982 he was confined to the notorious prison island Robben Island, together with several other resistance leaders. He was then moved to prison on the mainland until his release in 1990. During his imprisonment, Mandela became a rallying point for South Africa's oppressed, and the world's most famous political prisoner.

Solitary confinement. Mandela's prison cell in the Robben Island penitentiary.
Equality and Pluralism
After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela negotiated the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa, settled an agreement on universal suffrage and democratic elections, and became the first black president of the country in 1994. When he entered into office, he was aware of the universal importance of this success, but he was also humbled by the focus on his person as a symbol of international and historical dimensions. After all, during the years 1952-1990, he had made only three public appearances, and numerous people of different nations had contributed to the cause. Indeed, Africa had been liberated from colonialism during his prison years. The truth of the ancient Bantu adage umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (we are people through other people) often came to his mind. And he saw, perhaps clearer than most of his contemporaries, the inevitability of "mutual interdependence" in the human condition, that "the common ground is greater and more enduring than the differences that divide." The background of the development of this vision is remarkable and diverse. From his African heritage, from his country's turbulent history, from his own formal education in "colonial" schools, and from his vicissitudes in the confines of Robben Island, Mandela emerged a man with a singular vision.
 Cory And Ninoy In Marcos’ Military Tribunal

Magsaysay Award for International Understanding CITATION for Corazon Cojuangco Aquino   Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies 31 August 1998, Manila

The most powerful symbols are simple ones. As news of the popular Philippine movement to unseat the dictator Marcos swept through the global village in early 1986, one image outshone the others: a brave woman in a yellow dress. Cory Aquino. Up till now her image lingers brightly as a symbol of nonviolent democratic aspiration the world over.

But symbols are simple only on the surface. Cory Aquino herself was not the architect of the movement she led, nor did she lead it by choice--this had been her husband's ambition. By experience, she was not a leader at all. Nor was the movement altogether coherent or unified. It was fragmented by personal rivalries and contradictory visions for the post-Marcos future. But when Aquino agreed reluctantly to stand for president, she brought to the struggle not only her celebrity as widow of the tyrant's most famous victim but also her integrity and her Christian faith and hope. This gave the movement a powerful moral center that galvanized the dictator's opponents and shamed his supporters. Along the boulevard of EDSA, People Power won the day. And Cory Aquino became president.

She then did as she had promised. Step by step, she dismantled the machinery of dictatorship and constructed the machinery of democracy: a free press and a new constitution, then elections. With each step, she limited her own powers and broadened those of others. She expanded popular participation in government and brought nongovernmental organizations into the national political dialogue. She sought earnestly to reduce poverty and improve public health, education, housing, and the environment. And she did her best to reconcile her government with its armed opponents in the countryside. In the process, she also stood down seven attempts to overthrow her embattled democracy by renegade power-grabbers from within her own military.

Cory Aquino could not possibly fulfill all the expectations she had awakened. No one knew this better than she. But as reality took its toll on the hopes of EDSA, she carried on buoyantly nevertheless. And consider, in the end, what she did manage to accomplish.

She united the democratic opposition to dictatorship in the Philippines and led it to victory.

She restored her country's democratic institutions and its good name in the community of nations.

She governed with integrity and the devout intention to do always what was best for the country and its people.

And, when her term was over, she stepped down in favor of an elected successor.

No Asian leader of our time can claim as much.

Today, as a private citizen, Aquino is less concerned with People Power than she is with empowering people--by promoting better-managed, business-wise cooperative societies, for example. Ordinary people should possess the "organized means of effecting major changes in their lives," she says. This will enlarge civil society in the Philippines and, with it, democracy as well.

And what of Aquino's legacy elsewhere? The years after 1986 witnessed one democratic outburst after another--in Korea, Burma, China, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, Poland, Chile, Thailand, and, lately, Indonesia. Cory Aquino did not have a direct hand in any of these events. But in these many places and others, we know that those who yearned and worked peacefully for freedom consciously emulated her and the movement she led. Her example inspired their hopes. "Each national experience of winning freedom is unique," says Aquino. Even so, the friends of democracy everywhere should stand together. To them, she says happily, "I offer my country's story."

In electing Corazon Cojuangco Aquino to receive the 1998 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the board of trustees recognizes her giving radiant moral force to the nonviolent movement for democracy in the Philippines and in the world.