My favorite Nelson Mandela memory

December 5th, 2013


Nelson Mandela- 1918-2013

True story:

I’m a junior at the University of Maryland and Mandela was that year’s Anwar Sadat Lecture for peace, uhhh, lecturer. He’s speaking to a packed Cole Field House and since he’s the biggest name UMD has drawn since, well, ever, then-Governor Parris Glendening is there to introduce Mandela.

A bit of background on my former governor. I worked as a Maryland State Assembly student page in high school and this guy would walk around the state house with boogers crusted to the end of his nose. But forgetting his personal hygiene, how awful was this guy? So awful that his predecessor, a Kennedy, got beaten by a Republican. In Maryland. Let me repeat: This guy was such a terrible governor that when the Democrats fielded a Kennedy in Maryland they lost. Got that? Good.

Anyway, Glendening gets up to introduce Mandela and says something, and I’m paraphrasing, along the lines of the following:

“President Mandela, I was reading your biography and was struck by the parallel that you spent 30 years in prison, exactly the same amount of time that I served as President of the University of Maryland.”

That’s right. The governor of Maryland compared his tenure at the state University to Mandela’s time in prison.

As a post-script to this anecdote we had a lot of high-profile speakers come through during my time at Maryland- Mandela probably the highest profile, but if memory serves we also had Henry Kissinger, Eli Wiesel and Jimmy Carter to name a few. Yet the only man I ever walked through a metal detector to see was Jon Stewart.

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