These are the qualities extolled in Invictus (Latin for "unconquerable" or "invincible"), a poem by William Ernest Henley that provided much inspiration to Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates during their imprisonment as Mandela confirms in this 2007 interview in Reader's Digest. Mandela has drunk deeply at the fountain of the world's great literature.
South Africa has been reflecting this month on the meaning and significance of Mandela's and the country's long walk to freedom. In Mandela's own assessment, recorded in the final words of his autobiography, that long walk was not the end, only the beginning; not an achievement, only an opportunity:
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.