Robben Island, corporate mission statements and Mandela

The main value of a mission statement lies in the process an organization goes through to create the mission statement

Former South African President Nelson Mandela

During my family trip to South Africa (discussed in last month's column), we visited Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. While there I met an old man who, as a teenager, had run away from home to join the African National Congress to fight apartheid. At age 17, he planted a bomb in a military barracks, and the ensuing blast injured 57 people. One of his co-conspirators betrayed him, and the man was sentenced to many years of hard labor at Robben Island, where he met Mandela.

Not exactly popular with the guards, the man was beaten and tortured, and when Mandela at last secured the release of all the men imprisoned at Robben Island, this man had to be carried out on a stretcher. It is perhaps one measure of the enormity of what Mandela accomplished that, today, this man is friendly with the men who beat him and the man who betrayed him, and sometimes they have lunch together on the island.

PD Villarreal

PD Villarreal is senior vice preisdent of global litigation at GlaxoSmithKline.

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