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Madiba, this is why I am a public servant

I posted this on my Facebook profile, today. I figured I would share it widely on this worst of days.

He held my hand for twenty minutes and told me of the vision he had for our country.

No, I said, I was a journalist. It is all I ever wanted to be. I loved the craft more than anything else.

He explained, again, what he wanted us to become, he wanted me to be part of it.

No, I said, repeating myself, I am a journalist. It is the craft that gives me life, a sense of purpose. All my life, I wanted to be just one thing: a good writer. Journalism gave me that chance.

He insisted.

I said if I would make a change, it would be for academia, because, I said, teaching was the other thing that thrilled me most.

Then he gave me the vision, and the plan. I took a few weeks, to think, and went back to see him.

“Tata, I am not even in the ANC.” He placed his hand on my forearm. “I like you, my boy. We need people like you in government.”

I went away … again.

A few weeks later, I gave in. That was in 1995. I promised him two years of my life, after which I would return to university. I would come back, I told him. Once I finished a doctorate.

He smiled. “Thank you.” He.Thanked.Me.

That was how my career in journalism was destroyed. The craft I loved more than anything else.

My life would change forever.

I had several interactions with him over the years. He was always kind and gentle. Once, even, quite firm.

My mother died in June — she gave me life.
The Old Man died last night — he gave me hope.
We may not hold onto life forever
But we must never give up hope.
That, in part, is why I am a public servant.