Happy birthday, Madiba! You have now outlasted my mother by nearly three years. I always knew her age because you turned it three months she before did. Like my mother made me feel special all my life, you made me feel very special when I visited you in prison in January 1990 just before your release.
That is the real art of leadership - to make people feel wanted and special and part of a team to which they can make a contribution for its success. You did that very well in your brief five years at the helm. We were a nation setting off on a path, full of hope and fear but united.
Which brings me to Alex Ferguson who is visiting this country at the moment with the team he manages, Manchester United. Why do you think that he has won more trophies that any other manager in the history of the game of soccer? Simple. He employs the same principles as Madiba in turning a bunch of diverse individuals into a coherent team. Whenever one of his stars wants to walk out to another club, he calls him in and irons out the problems and re-invigorates his commitment to the club.
Alex is now in his 70s just as you were when you took over reins of this country. It shows that leaders can go on being leaders until they die. There is no retirement age! A source of inspiration is always a source of inspiration.
Moreover, nations are like soccer teams. They compete on the world stage and those that demonstrate hard work, have a belief in themselves and constantly exercise a spirit of innovation are the ones that win the game. They score the goals they set themselves - in our case a better life for all.
So, may you both continue to have rich and productive lives making your followers feel that they are walking alongside you, making them feel included in the grand enterprise to which you have dedicated your entire existence. You have shown that winning the game together is not the only thing. It is everything.
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