Wendeen listened to the tribute to Nelson Mandela at his memorial service in Soweto with first-hand knowledge of the joy, strength, and pride the South African liberator brought not only to his people, but to all who he befriended.
Wendeen was privileged to cross paths with him twice. On the first occasion at Gracie Mansion in 1994, she was totally awed by his presence, his handshake and his glowing smile. She was mesmerized by his voice in their ninety second tete a tete; his every word resonated sharply.
But the second occasion, in a hotel near Johannesburg, was even more inspirational–shortly after he completed his stunning biography. President Mandela insisted on revising Wendeen’s itinerary to accommodate time for a talk about his book and a dinner to celebrate it. Reflecting on the tribute, last week, Wendeen was moved to call him “a most extraordinary man-made wonder of the world.”