First I heard of Nelson Mandela was in the early sixties, when he was making news headlines in the west on account of ANC "terrorism" in South Africa.
Apartheid South Africa was at the time a member in good standing of both the British Commonwealth and the community of nations at large.
That terror label was to stick for another twenty years or so in some circles. Mandela meanwhile spent most of his adult life in prison for standing up against what today is seen as a self-evident injustice, namely that some people may be deemed more worthy than others simply by dint of the colour of skin they were born into.
The last twenty years of Mandela's life were part triumph, part tragedy, and part farce.
The greatest triumph was the sweeping out of the Apartheid regime and the establishment of a racially inclusive democracy in South Africa.
Tragedies were plentiful enough, from his personal disappointments to the disappointments of his heirs in the ANC. But Mr. Mandela was never one to dwell on disappointments.
The farce has been continuous in the constant stream of senior politicos from the many nations who had condemned him as a "terrorist" making pilgrimage to Africa to touch the hem of his raiments and bask in the Great Man's refracted glory; all at the behest of their PR consultants of course!
What struck me most about his wonderful autobiography was the complete absence of anger or self-pity. Surely the man had much to rage against and much to rage about and even more reason to feel sorry for himself.
That was what I found most inspirational about Nelson Mandela.