This is the text of my one-minute reflection on this morning's BBC Radio 2 Good Morning Sunday with the wonderful Clare Balding:
When I heard that Nelson Mandela had died I was haunted by the sound of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela singing “Free Nelson Mandela” at Wembley Stadium on 11 June 1988 at his 70th birthday concert. Mandela would be in prison for a further six years before he continued his long walk to freedom – through the gates of Robben Island and into the spotlight of power.
After all, he had had twenty seven years to think about the future of South Africa and what his role might be if, one day, he was freed. Having been freed, he then had to take responsibility for what he did with that freedom.
What has been really interesting in the last week is how Mandela has been revered by people who clearly have no intention of emulating him. And I am not being critical here. It is always easier to pontificate from afar or to admire from a distance without having to take responsibility for acting on what we see.
As we approach Christmas the same applies. It is easier to get sentimental over the baby in the manger than to take seriously the man he became. And it is easier to talk his talk than to walk his walk.
As Mandela is buried today we know he is finally free of the responsibility he has carried. We are not.