As the world remembers Nelson Mandela, the South African peacemaker who died December 5, it's also important to remember a moment in the 1980s when the American spirit of civil rights was rekindled.
Responding to renewed apartheid violence in South Africa, a nonviolent civil action group known as TransAfrica organized protests at the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. High profile celebrities and politicians were arrested in the protests, bringing new interest in abolishing the racist political system.
The protests convinced Congress to pass stiff sanctions against South Africa, and Americans took a new look at Nelson Mandela. Read more about it here.
At right, two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, share a relaxed meeting at a conference in 2009. That's been common place for the last 23 years -- U.S. politicians finding common ground with Mandela. But believe it or not, there was a time when American leaders did not look so favorably on Mandela. Read more here.
A few weeks ago, just before I was starting my afternoon American history class, some students came running in, out of breath. A big, dark-colored plane -- belching smoke -- had just flown over campus. Really low, they said. Surely it was about to crash.
Thinking they were a bit over-excited, I quizzed them.
"Did it have props?" I asked, thinking it was a C-130 from the naval air station up the road. They frequently fly over.
"We don't know!"
I asked if any of the digital natives had taken a pic on their ubiquitous smart-phones.
"Nooooo." They were dismayed I even asked.
But one did produce a pic, heavily pixelated once I blew it up. And there it was -- a B-52 flying off, its eight Pratt & Whitneys pumping out a normal amount of exhaust, flying at a normal height and certainly not about to crash.
I was chagrined. I've never seen one in flight, just static on the ground. I gave the kids a quick discourse on the venerable workhorse of the U.S. Air Force.
Mostly, they didn't care.
I thought about my near miss with the BUFF (you can look that up) today when I learned the U.S. had sent two of them on a mission through the disputed airspace above the Senkaku Islands north of Taiwan. Both China and Japan claim the islands, and this weekend China declared the zone off-limits.
Siding with Japan, the U.S. voiced its opposition to China's mandate with the Stratofortress. For more, check out my post here. After nearly 60 years in service, the B-52 is still on the front-line of U.S. foreign policy.
B-52 Photo Courtesy U.S. Department Of Defense
Six months ago it seemed like Barack Obama and Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu were getting along better. Sure, there will always be disagreements over borders, a Palestinian state, Syria, and of course, Iran.
But that last one -- specifically Iran's nuclear program -- seems destined to drive a wedge between the two leaders again.
Netanyahu doesn't like the deal that Obama announced this weekend which pauses Iran's nuclear program in preparation for downsizing it. In return, the U.S. and the West will ease Iranian sanctions - somewhat.
Obama praises the deal as a step forward; Bibi sees it as a "historic mistake."
This is just a "first step" deal, with assessments coming in six months. Don't expect any casual Barack/Bibi get-togethers anytime soon.