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Mandela’s and Obama’s Heroism in Present Society


This paper explores the subject of heroism and its place in the present society. It determines that in the biblical and medieval societies, heroes were individuals with extraordinary abilities who saved their societies from evil and bondage. The paper goes further to determine that the present society has had its fair share of troubles and humanity has not been saved by great people, but ordinary and selfless individuals doing extraordinary things. Therefore, the paper has adopted the definition of a hero to be an ordinary person distinguished by his or her bravery and astonishing achievements towards saving humanity. The paper then discusses the contributions of Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama towards saving their societies and the world at large. The two leaders are considered the greatest heroes of this century.

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Greek mythology portrayed heroes as persons whose courageous and extraordinary acts brought both blessings and favour from gods. In the days of the Great Roman and Greek empires, heroes were few and hard to come by. Major world religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism describe heroes as persons with extraordinary powers, blessed, and favoured by God. Whereas the people of the bible and the Great Roman and Greek empires needed people with extraordinary powers to bring change in their societies and to liberate them, the world of today needs “ordinary” people to bring change to it. Presently, heroes can be just anyone.

A dedicated, honest, and steadfast politician bringing change to his or her people can suit the profile. An ordinary man or woman fighting to bring harmony among rival clans and promoting world peace can also suit the profile of a hero. The present society has many heroes. They comprise spirited warriors, innovators, explorers, politicians, peacekeepers, and doctors who save lives among others. Most heroes live their lives away from the public but are distinguished by their astonishing achievements. I consider Barrack Obama and Nelson Mandela the heroes of our time. However, of the two leaders, Nelson Mandela has been more inspirational in bringing change to the world.

During colonization, many European nations set out to occupy “unclaimed” lands in African, Asia and some parts of the Middle East (Nardo, 2011). The colonization process was brutal and many lives were lost, kingdoms subdued, and societal orders changed. Local communities, especially those in Africa and Asia were enslaved and used in plantation farms. Whereas a change in foreign policy coupled with other factors such as revolts, sabotage, and destruction of European interests saw many European nations grant colonized nations independence, South Africa remained under a tight grip of the Dutch. Guerrilla warfare, boycotts, destruction of Dutch companies, international intervention and all forms of nonviolent resistance “failed to tear down the apartheid system” (Kurtz, 2010).

However, when the Dutch finally yielded to persistent pressure locally and internationally and abandoned apartheid, it was expected that the incoming black president, Nelson Mandela, would send the Dutch back to the Netherlands. All colonized nations in Africa ordered their colonizers to go back to their motherlands after attaining independence. It was therefore expected that Mandela would do the same when the black majority took over power (Denenberg, 1991). Surprisingly, Mandela stood for a unified Republic of South Africa. In one of his famous speeches, Mandela claimed, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” (Hamilton, 2014). He strongly believed that freedom for self comes from respecting and enhancing the freedom of others. Mandela fought for world peace and harmony throughout his life. He did not only bring peace among South African’s but also negotiated peace agreements in several parts of the world especially Africa.

The rate of polarization of American political parties is worrying. There is a widening chasm between the Democrats and the Republicans. The gap between the two groups has continued to expand making some political analysts and pessimists claim that the situation is irreversible. Today, the country’s political map has “taken the coloration of civil war” (Dionne, 1991). Most blue states have remained Democrats while red states are predominantly Republicans. The difference between these two groups has been responsible for poor policies and bad leadership in America. Further, there have been cases of heated debates between people of different parties sometimes leading to actual violence (Cooney, 1998).

The main problem with the division created by the two political parties has been stereotyping and segregation. America has come to appoint where all black people and Latinos are considered Democrats. The division in the country is also evident in people’s voting pattern. The division has hindered many people from being rational when electing leaders. Barrack Obama did the unthinkable by becoming America’s first black president. He successfully convinced the red states like “Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina” to vote for him thereby breaking the voting tradition of the country (White, 2014). Since taking office, Obama has been on the lead towards uniting Americans. Despite his skin colour, Obama has shown the world that nothing is impossible to those who work hard towards their dreams. He is an inspiration to many people who consider themselves as the minority.

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Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama have touched the lives of many people in different ways. The two leaders are an inspiration to many people for their fight for human dignity and world peace. Nelson Mandela ensured that South Africa remained one nation for both whites and blacks. Obama on the other hand has been on the forefront in uniting Americans. Coming into the oval office just after the 9/11 attacks that almost divided the nation along religious lines, Obama has done his best to make Americans know that they have a common enemy in hunger, terrorism, diseases, and poverty but not each other.

From the above discussion, we come to realize that the world is still full of heroes; selfless people who do small things for the benefit of others. They make the world a better place to live in. The contributions of these great individuals live on even after their demise. Nelson Mandela’s contribution towards uniting South Africans will be celebrated and enjoyed by many generations to come. The fruits of Obama’s contribution towards uniting Americans and upholding the dignity of humans may not be evident currently. However, as time elapses, the world will come to realize the significance of his efforts.


Cooney, M. (1998). Warriors and peacemakers how third parties shape violence. New York: New York University Press.

Denenberg, B. (1991). Nelson Mandela: “no easy walk to freedom” : A biography. New York: Scholastic.

Dionne, E. (1991). Why Americans hate politics. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hamilton, L. (2014). Are South Africans free? Johannesburg: A&C Black.

Kurtz, L. (2010). Movements and Campaigns. Web.

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Nardo, D. (2011). The European colonization of Africa. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds Pub.

White, D. (2013). Why Red States Turned Blue in 2008. Web.

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