José Manuel Ramos-Horta GCL AC is the United Nations’ special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). He was the President of East Timor from 2007 to 2012, the second since independence from Indonesia, and is a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. He began his career in journalism in 1969 in Timor-Leste and was a co-founder of FRETILIN, the Revolutionary Front for the Independence of Timor-Leste.
I Am Driven By | Justice towards the poor and weak.
My Highlights | That I have done my part, a small part, in contributing to end the gravest injustice ever committed against our people – the brutal 24-year occupation.
The Difference Between good And Great | Being humble and compassionate in victory; when in the peak of
power, reach out to the underdog, the poor, the forgotten. These are the truly great people.
My Strengths | Perseverance. Have a vision, design a strategy, take steps, one at a time, with prudence, review, analyse
the information, study your own weaknesses, enhance your strength based on what you have learned about your weaknesses. Never underestimate anyone.
Principles And Values I Live By | Caring about others, about the poor and the forgotten, be compassionate, share what you have with those who have nothing.
Critical Skills to Success | You have to study, always study and study doesn’t mean only at school, it means reading, listening.
Resources I Use | I read a lot on international affairs, good newspapers, magazines, some good books. I like cinema but not always serious movies; one has to relax sometimes. So I see action movies, thrillers, etc.
My Dreams And Ambitions | That in my life time, I see poverty has ended in my country, that peace is rooted in our culture. That poverty has ended in the world and peace has prevailed.
Advice For Building Wealth | Nothing wrong in being rich as long as you acquired it through licit means. But share your wealth with others who are less privileged than you. You will discover you are happier.
I Am Inspired By | Ghandi and Mandela.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I never thought much of my possible legacy but I can be remembered as someone who care for the poor and the weak.
My Story About Nelson Mandela |
I went to South Africa after Mandela’s release. Had never set foot in the Apartheid South Africa. I think it was in 1994 or 1995. Through some friends in the old, debilitated Australian Communist Party, contacts were made with the ANC comrades.
ANC being ANC was/maybe is sort of a chaotic organization. So I when I arrived there with a large entourage (well, five of us, which for us five was a lot) nothing had been arranged. No complaints.
The ANC had just resurfaced from decades of harsh under-ground and demands on them were overwhelming. But I met I great young ANC activist, Robert MacBride, who seemed to have easy access to Madiba. Anyway I told him, I am not leaving South Africa until I see Mandela. I can wait weeks, months, no problem. My colleagues, one by one gave up, each living to their destination. Only one, Roque Rodrigues, resisted with me and stayed put in South Africa. Roque is the only Marxist we still have in Timor-Leste as everyone else made a quick transition to moderate socialism or anything else.
I didn’t have to wait too long. After a few days, we were out of town, at Robert MacBride’s country home when a phone call came informing us that President Mandela would see us in 2 hrs time. So we rushed back to Johannesburg in time to meet with that giant man. We were escorted upstairs and into President Mandela’s bedroom. There he was, Nelson Mandela, world’s hero, laying in bed. He smiled broadly at me and said: “I heard you wanted to see me and would wait weeks, months if necessary. Well, I presume you have lots of work to do for your people. I didn’t want you to wait around, wasting your time. So I decided to see you right away as soon as I got out of the hospital”.
I was in awe, almost in tears. There was Mandela, his long slim figure stretched in bed, in the intimacy of his bedroom. He had been hospitalized for a knee surgery and had just been released. He didn’t want me to wait, waste my time. We talked for a quite a while. Occasionally some little children, I presume were his grand children, would come running into the room and Madiba would caress their hair, face. We left when his doctor told the President he had to rest.
What a lesson in greatness, compassionate and humility! I met Mandela again few months later. I got a phone call when I was in Lisbon saying Mandela wanted to talk to me. I waited and 10′ later the phone rang again and it was Mandela himself.
He said: “When can you come to South Africa?” I answered: “Whenever Madiba tells me to come”. He replied: “Tonight?”
I responded: “I will try. I have to book a flight”. Madiba responded: “We have booked a flight for you. Just go to the airport”. So I did and upon arriving I was taken again to see Mandela.
What a great man. 27 years of freedom, of life, denied to him. Yet he harbored no hatred.
How can any of us not learn to forgive our worst enemies.
A giant of a man and yet so humble, compassionate.