DURING the past month or so, certain events have, quite uniquely, brought to the fore what true democracy and statesmanship are all about -- the right of every person to freedom and equality; and, the commitment in a person, respected for integrity and impartial concern, who strives for that right of democracy for all.
On July 18, the world celebrated Nelson Mandela as he turned 94. Many South Africans, as they have done for several years, performed at least 67 minutes of public service on the birthday of their former president and Nobel Prize winner to honour his legacy, recalling the number of years he had led, and ultimately won, the struggle against apartheid.
Subjected to maltreatment of the worst kind and jailed for 27 years for his struggle to unite his nation, Mandela's "personal story is one of unbreakable will, unwavering integrity, and abiding humility", said United States President Barack Obama in a tribute.
Nelson Mandela, who turned 94 last week, is celebrated in South Africa and the world over for his struggles against apartheid. AFP pic
Mandela writes in his inspiring and motivating autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom: "A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity... 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."
Two other notable events, also during this past month, witnessed two sets of speeches that stood out.
The first was by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's pro-democracy icon, who was bestowed the honour of being the first non-head of state and first foreign woman to address the British Parliament.
The Nobel laureate's speech contained no recrimination against her country's former military rulers who had jailed or placed her under house arrest for two decades for championing democracy.
With her natural charisma and eloquence, Suu Kyi spoke in a humble and yet firm tone, absolutely clear on what she wanted for her people.
She appealed for all the help that friendly nations could give her country so that her people could enjoy freedom, dignity and the right to decent lives.
The second was a trilogy of speeches by Egypt's first ever freely-elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
He addressed a huge crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, followed by an inauguration speech at his swearing-in before the Supreme Constitutional Court, and another address at his installation ceremony at Cairo University.
Morsi now leads the Arab world's most populous nation in its first steps towards being a full democracy, though its path remains unpredictable and fragile.
As such, the seasoned Muslim Brotherhood leader, who kept his pre-election pledge to give up all religious and political party posts, had a firm yet conciliatory tone in his speeches.
He said he would exercise the authority of the presidency to uphold the rights, dignity and democracy for which the people had sacrificed so much, and that their sacrifices would not be in vain but would be duly rewarded.
Morsi displayed no ill-will towards the military that had persecuted and jailed him in the past for his stand on the people's rights. He instead focused on the different groups in the country and affirmed that their participation would be respected by his government.
All leaders and aspiring leaders should read the Mandela autobiography, while the speeches by Suu Kyi and Morsi are certainly worth listening to.
I'm sure these "nuggets" will inspire and motivate us towards unity of purpose and conduct for the greater good of ourselves and that of our fellow beings.
By Rueben Dudley, Petaling Jaya, Selangor Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 24 July 2012