We need our heroes. We need our symbols of strength and courage. We need our sources of inspiration. Nelson Mandela was all of that. And for that alone he deserves a place in our hearts and memories among the great figures in the history of the world. And that place he has.

But it’s more than that. What makes the death of Nelson Mandela so deeply meaningful are the characteristics of the man that motivated the heroic strength and courage: his values, his sense of morality, his ability to forgive, his compassion and his capacity to love. These days words like strength and courage are too often applied to people, including people who consider themselves leaders, but who are in fact scoundrels. Nelson Mandela was the conscience of a nation and be a more-than-we-recognize extension the conscience of a world. It’s losing that conscience that hurts the most because replacements are in such short supply.

May his sense of dignity, peace and justice inspire us and never be forgotten.