An American Mandela? You Be the Judge

For the Record

July 21, 2002|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff

"I told John ... that Nelson Mandela served 26 years in prison. He's a good man, like John. And I told John he needed to be prepared for something along those lines."

-- Frank Lindh, father of John Walker Lindh, who on Monday pleaded guilty to two terrorism-related charges for his involvement in the Taliban. The plea bargain calls for Lindh to serve up to 20 years in prison.

So, what else do Nelson Mandela and John Walker Lindh have in common?

NELSON MANDELA

Age: 84

Born

Village of Mvezo, on South Africa's southeastern coast

Given name

Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela

Education

B.A. degree, University of South Africa; law degree

Early distinctions

Established first black-run law practice in South Africa

Leading member of African National Congress, South Africa's oldest civil rights organization, whose goal was the liberation of black South Africa from apartheid

Helped launch the ANC Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws

Notable quote

"There was no particular day on which I said, 'From henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people'; instead, I simply found myself doing so."

Life mission

Establish a truly democratic form of government by overthrowing white supremacy in South Africa

Honors

Nobel Peace Prize (shared with F.W. de Klerk)

Bruno Kreisky Prize for Human Rights

Sakharov Prize

Honorary degrees from scores of universities

Among other hardships

Convicted of treason, spent 18 years confined to a 7-foot-square cell with single light bulb and mat for sleeping; allowed to receive one brief letter every six months

Later distinctions

South Africa's first freely elected president

Retired

Wrote autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom

White-haired patriarch of the new South Africa

JOHN WALKER LINDH

Age: 21

Born

Silver Spring, Md.

Adopted name

Suleyman al-Faris

Education

High-school equivalency diploma

Early distinctions

Named after Beatle John Lennon

Played flute in school

Internet screen name was "Doodoo"

Sold hip-hop CD collection

Notable quote

"Is it all right to watch cartoons on TV?"

Life mission

Memorize all 6,666 sentences of Quran, the Muslim holy book

Honors

Called "model student" by his teacher at Islamic fundamentalist school in Pakistan

Among other hardships

Left Pakistan when weather turned hot, complained of rashes and incessant dust; trouble sleeping; e-mailing hampered

Later distinctions

Self-proclaimed holy warrior who told Newsweek that he supported Sept. 11 attacks

Made cover of Newsweek, USA Today

Shaved

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