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December 07, 2013 AT 7:28 AM
The passing of Nelson Mandela leaves a waning number of global figures representing freedom and resilience against oppression — and a changing world that makes it harder for anyone to approach Mandela's iconic power. There are a few whose trials have made them symbols of freedom, including the former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, the Dalai Lama and, more recently, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl turned women's rights activist . But Mandela, the black revolutionary who emerged from 27 years in prison to embrace his white oppressors and lead a new South Africa, may be one of the last of a breed for all sorts of reasons — including the circumstances of his heroism, his extraordinary success and the onset of an age when heroes' foibles are often exposed.