The greatest advantage of being the Press Representative for New Zealand at the United Nations World Social Summit in Copenhagen was that I could choose to interview anyone who was there and everything would be arranged.
Nelson Mandela arrived for our meeting surrounded by a bodyguard. His gentleness and charisma were his strengths, but they also made him vulnerable. Nevertheless a bodyguard seemed to be an anachronism after all the risks he had taken. It was all something I needed to get my head around as later in WSSD I would be involved indeveloping strategies for avoiding an assassination in Istanbul.
I had been too busy to propare any questions, but it was immediately obvious that they would have been superfluous. Nelson Mandela was interested in knowing more about me and it seemed as though we had know each other for a long time.
I had not appreciated just how significant the actions New Zealand had taken against apartheid were to him. Messages had been carried through to him on Robbins Island and they had renewed his hope and given him renewed strength.
His message to me was simple and personal. Keep your integrity. Always believe in yourself. Never give up hope.