Our leaders then, now

Published: Monday | December 16, 2013 Comments 0
President Barack Obama jokes with Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt during the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, last Tuesday.
President Barack Obama jokes with Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt during the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, last Tuesday.
Daviot Kelly
Daviot Kelly

Last week, (with a memorial) and yesterday (the state funeral), the world said goodbye to one of the greatest human beings to walk the earth - Nelson Mandela.

Madiba had been struggling with his health for months, but for a man who survived 27 years in prison, and who fought tirelessly for equal rights and justice for all, should we be surprised he stuck around this long? I have no intention of doing a disservice to the great man by trying to wax philosophy about his life, work and what he meant to so many. Many columns, stories and commentaries from across the globe have taken care of that.

But as a good friend of mine asked, when will another person receive such worldwide commendation? Not for the first time in my life, I was stumped. I thought of a few popular people who, depending on what happens for the rest of their lives, might get such a send-off. Barack Obama (more on him in a minute) immediately comes to mind. The current Pope, who, by the way, was last week named as Time Magazine's Person Of The Year, is another consideration. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates are two other names I can come up with. But somehow they wouldn't even come close to Mandela, would they?

Speaking of Mandela's memorial, there was an incident that had me rolling (not literally) on the floor. The aforementioned Barack Obama apparently got into some hot water with wifey Michelle after taking 'selfies' (self-portrait photographs) with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Now Thorning-Schmidt, in my view, is a hottie, and Obama and Cameron are two of the more down-to-earth, likeable world leaders. And with the trio sitting together, it was a Kodak moment waiting to happen. Except, from all the photo/video angles we can see, Michelle Obama wasn't looking too pleased. Maybe she was just tired from the trip.

But on social media, some people also criticised the trio for their 'antics'. I guess they felt they should have been more sombre. But, for me, they're just human beings and Mandela himself would probably have been snapping away with his phone too. The real joke was after Barack returned to his seat, all of a sudden the seating arrangements had changed. Michelle was now on Barack's right, now between him and Thorning-Schmidt. Coincidence? In fairness, we haven't seen Barack show up with any bruises like Jiggs in the old cartoon strip Bringing Up Father (ask your parents), so we assume everything's okay. But, you never know.

Still, the point isn't lost that no ordinary human being could get such a response from the world. And maybe, at least for a time, no other will.

Link me at daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com

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