Woman who met Mandela reflects on his legacy

Posted at: 12/06/2013 12:45 PM
Updated at: 12/08/2013 11:27 AM
By: Dan Bazile

Here in the Capital Region and across New York State, flags are at half staff in honor of Former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says “While President Mandela is no longer with us, here in New York and all around the globe, his legacy lives on.”

Dr. Penelope Andrews, the Dean of Albany Law School who met Mandela says one of his greatest legacies is to provide lessons for everyone.

Dr. Andrews says she was in awe, when she met Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

“He was very close to the man who was my mentor in South Africa who became the chief judge in South Africa,” says Dr. Andrews.

Andrews was even more overwhelmed when Mandela wrote the foreward to her book about the South African constitution.

“For me that was one of the great privileges of my life not just have him do this, but be associated and know people who were close to him,” she says.

Dr. Andrews says Mandela was like a friend. And even though his passing wasn't unpredictable because he had been critically ill for months, Dr. Andrews says losing him was painful because of all he had accomplished.

She says he took a country that was torn apart by racism and inequality, and transformed it into a democracy while inspiring generations around the world. That's not an exaggeration of his stature posthumously.

“How lucky are we South Africans that there was a president in my lifetime who represented the kinds of values, the morality, the principles that I think make for extraordinary living,” says Dr. Andrews, who also said we owe Mandela a debt of gratitude.

However, Mandela himself didn't see it that way. She says he was humble and remembers him just dropping in at somebody's Bar Mitzvah in Johannesburg.

“So he was just sort of this person who was larger than life, but he was also just a really nice human being,” says Dr. Andrews.