It was one of our life journeys with my dear wife when we’ve traveled for 14 days in South Africa. Besides the safari experience, we visited the Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his efforts to end apartheid.

Yesterday would have been his 100th birthday. I don’t know if the current world and our populist political leaders get his ideal: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.

Perhaps what always strikes me most is that all these great personalities are natural-born communicators. The greatest of our times. But mind this small detail: they all have had an idea to serve. A true inspirational idea that moved people, systems and transformed the world around them, even momentarily. Mandella quoted spoke for huge issues:

  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
  • There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

Great communicators?

  • Nelson Mandella
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – who hasn’t heard and been touched by King’s “I have a dream” speech?
  • John Wooden – he transformed and branded Basketball into his program at UCLA.
  • Winston Churchill – one of the most often-quoted leaders of the 20th century.
  • John F. Kennedy – few speeches are as often quoted as his inaugural address, which he spent months writing. His ability to speak as if he was having an authentic conversation with an audience, as opposed to lecturing, made him such a compelling communicator.
  • John Lennon – he used the media to help create a new culture for a whole generation and promoted the cause of peace.
  • Jack Welch – Chairman and CEO of General Electric that took the company to record levels of growth in revenue and profits.
  • Oprah Winfrey – her every phase is a ‘sound-bite’ (the most influential media-icon woman).

You can put as many as you like on the list. Of course, Muhammad Ali, Aristotle, and Jesus had an easier communication job in some respects: they didn’t have to worry that their audience was about to change channels! They didn’t need an army of PR professionals to help them either.

Today, we can all just pick up our phone or pound the keys on our keyboard and hit ’send.’

But what are we sending through? Something of value? How unique? How sentimental?

I’m deeply worried about this…

I’m deeply worried about not having big ideas to serve…