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US President should heed wise words

Trump needs to channel his ‘inner Mandela’

russellOn his release from his long incarceration on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela was entitled to be a bit peeved. He could have been forgiven for expressing deep, personal disappointment. But no. No tantrums, no bitterness, no unfocused anger.

In the peroration of the speech he delivered at Cape Town City hall he said: “My friends, I have no words of eloquence to offer today except to say the remaining days of my life are in your hands.”

And by that he meant the hands of every South African. For sure he laid a few things on the line, reaffirming his radical roots and praising the bravery of De Klerk, but saying he “is a man of integrity who is acutely aware of the dangers of a public figure not honouring his undertakings”. A warning if ever there was one; iron words in a velvet voice. 

It is ridiculous – some will say insulting – to put Mandela and Trump on the same page. Except in this: both had the power, using only words, to start a spiral of fear and hate that would have been difficult to contain. Watching Trump’s acceptance speech, I saw a near perfect-pitch: thanking Clinton, bigging-up his team, promising to govern for all. No locking-her-up, no sneering, no walls. He was brief.

It’s facile to say of these remarks “but that was easy”. It’s not easy. Dignity in victory is not a given: Trump still has a mountain to climb to “honour his undertakings” on immigration, jobs and THE WALL.

More than three quarters of blue-collar men, who all have more guns than hair product, want action and they want it yesterday. But only the man who urged them to the polling station has the credibility to take them to a place of peace and reconciliation.

Squaring those circles is a tough ask and may prove beyond him, or anyone. If it is too big a job someone else will need to step up and if you are looking for an orator it will not be Hillary Clinton. The harsh truth is it never was. 

I wonder if the newly-minted leader of the free world would listen to Mandela’s words just once, because there is a line worth putting on a Post-It on one of The Donald’s mirrors. Speaking of the enormous tasks in front of a broken South Africa, Mandela said: “No individual leader is able to take all these enormous tasks on his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organisation and allow the democratic structures to decide on the way forward.”

Christie, Guiliani, Ryan and the others who will form his team need to weigh in too. Obama has said all Americans are for Trump now and if you think that is too much to envision, remember Mandela again: “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” 

I don’t agree with Trump on anything, except this: the people have spoken and there were a lot of them; they are people who have been largely forgotten and ignored; they were mad as hell and still are.

Like him or not, Trump’s few, well-judged remarks on Wednesday was a good start. He needs to make many more like them. I hope he has a super speechwriter.

Can we have the audacity to hope Trump can channel his inner Mandela on more than one occasion? 

Yes we can. Yes, we must. 

Russell Wardrop is chief executive of Kissing With Confidence

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