Today, Nelson Mandela International Day 2018 marks 100 years since the birth of the loved global figure. Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected President after years of confronting racism and prejudice with peace and equanimity.
The Centenary is an occasion to reflect on his life and legacy, and to follow his call to “make of the world a better place”. One hundred years after his birth, Mandela’s example of courage and compassion continue to inspire the world. Positive change was the gift left to all of us by Nelson Mandela, but it can only become a living legacy if we take up his challenge of fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all. Here’s what today’s “social justice warriors” can imbibe from his legacy.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” said Mandela.
When Mandela was in prison for 27 years, the white guards had to be constantly replaced because Mandela quickly gained their respect and they became ineffective at upholding the regime. Mandela was unwavering in his compassion for human beings — even those perpetuating cruelty. And he was unwavering in his commitment to create a more just society.
Mandela’s life reminds us of the choices that we can make, of a moral mandate to hold tight to our core values and to refuse to act in violation of them. There will be instances where your compassion wavers or when you’re asked to act in a way that dehumanizes another person. You could say no. In a context that was far more dangerous, Mandela took risks and held tight to his values for years and years.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended,” said Mandela.
The lessons we can draw from this quote are many and it offers an entry into rich and meaningful conversations with young people. Resting is essential on this journey. Also, with the study of history, reflecting on the past is essential. That’s how we see our successes and failures, how we make course adjustments and corrections, how we acknowledge our hard work.
To sum it up, Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.