As a child among boyhood friends, Nelson Mandela was once thrown from a donkey into a thorn bush. This taught him a lifetime lesson: “to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.” (Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela)
South Africa’s first democratically-elected President remembered this childhood lesson many years later at his own inauguration in 1994 when the crucial question was: what would be the country's national anthem? His political cohorts wanted to dispose of the old national hymn ''Die Stem,'' which celebrated the 19th century triumph of the Afrikaner trekkers over the indigenous peoples and replace it with ''Nkosi Sikelele" favored by the majority of Blacks who suffered under the brutal apartheid regime.
But Mandela remained adamant: “This song that you treat so easily holds the emotions of many people whom you don’t represent. Yet, with the stroke of a pen, you would make a decision to destroy the very⎯the only ⎯basis that we are building upon: reconciliation.” (Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela, by Bill Keller) Mandela overruled his own followers in favor of performing both for the event at the FNB stadium in Soweto. What miraculously followed was white people singing the African hymn and Africans singing the Afrikaans song.