Icon of virtue

AMERICAN author Sydney J Harris once said: "The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded ..."

Of the moral acts espoused by Harris, the one about returning love for hate continues to inspire a world that sees Nelson Mandela as the embodiment of such virtue.

Mandela, who celebrates his 91st birthday on Saturday, is embraced by the world as a statesman who inspires a certain moral character in humanity - in the words of Greek philosopher Aristotle, "a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions".

That we still have him among us ought to persuade us to celebrate as though he were released yesterday from his 27-year-long incarceration.