I was fortunate enough to meet Nelson Mandela in the early 90s. At the time, I was a budding journalist and was sent to his press conference at the Newark, NJ airport. As I stood, cramped with the hundreds of other journalists awaiting his arrival off the tarmac, it was difficult to see where he would be entering. Once Mandela made his way through the gates, to the podium, I found something to step on, and was elevated just enough to make eye contact with him, as he approached the podium. Immediately he started to point his finger in my direction and I had no idea he was pointing at me. He summoned his security guards to “go and get her!” Huh?! Me?!
You can imagine my shock. They came so quickly and I had no idea as to what was happening. They literally made a b-line in my direction and before I knew it, I was whisked over tables and chairs, and was now standing next to THE Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and recently released prsioner — at the podium. Once I was securely standing next to him, he then told the press corp., “Now, the press conference can begin.” I nearly fainted.
Needless to say, the reporter I was sent there with, to assist, was not too happy about what had transpired, as he referred to it as “unprofessional.” All I knew was that my grandparents revered Nelson Mandela, and having that experience was worth me getting in trouble. Yes, I got a slap on the wrist. Wouldn’t you?
Today is Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday and people are celebrating it by donating their time. Do something good for someone today — Nelson did that for me.