The Common Good

Obama and Mandela

It has been reported that President-elect Barack Obama's coming into leading the U.S. is in many ways similar -- and equal in magnitude -- to Nelson Mandela becoming president of South Africa. I would be the first to say yes, it is. May our prayers be with Obama as he strategizes and plans for leading the U.S. in troublesome economic times, as well as ushering in "the new dawn of American leadership."

Mandela was South Africa's first black president. Within the U.S., so is Obama.

Mandela had the task to bring a country together; so does Obama.

Mandela had to ensure a secure economic future; so does Obama.

Mandela and South Africa were being watched by the world; so is Obama and the U.S.

South Africa birthed its democracy just 15 years ago, and within 15 years we are questioning our democracy and its failure to aid the lives of all South Africans. May Obama, in seeking to "bring change," have his eye on what Howard Thurman (a most astute intellectual, theologian, and mystic American prophet) would refer to as "the people with their backs against the wall." May Obama take to heart the development of a society where democracy will be a blessing to all people -- people in the U.S. as well as people throughout the world.

Seth NaickerSeth Naicker is an activist for justice and reconciliation from South Africa. He is currently studying and working at Bethel University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the program and projects director for the Office of Reconciliation Studies. He can be reached at or

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