June 23,1990. Two hundred thousand people on the Esplanade struck silent, in awe, knowing deep down that it was not just an opportunity, but a privilege to witness a moment in history: Nelson Mandela’s visit to the city of Boston, a scant four months after being released from prison. My friends and I planned our walk down to the Hatch Shell, which was usually relegated to running routes and the Fourth of July celebration. What time would we get there? How close could we get to him? In the end, it didn’t matter, because the sound system was so great, that you could hear his speech a quarter mile away.
The thing I remember most was how still and quiet all those people were when Mandela was speaking. When he was announced, there was jubilation, dancing, lots and lots of clapping and smiling. But when he started to speak, a hush fell over the crowd and it stayed that way throughout his talk.
The other thing I remember was second-guessing my choice of graduate program (psychology) because I so wanted to learn how to communicate with such passion, conviction and kindness. What program taught that? Sign me up.
Walking back home to the Fenway afterward, we all agreed how grateful we felt to be part of such an amazing experience. Twenty plus years later I find myself remembering that day. What comes to mind is Greatness. Gravitas. Generosity.