Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18th July 1918 – 5th December 2013) was a South African politician and activist. On April 27, 1994, he was made the first President of South Africa elected in a fully represented democratic election. Mandela was also the first black President of his country, South Africa. On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalized:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. ”Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964
On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day was sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island. He spent 27 years in prison, came back, and forgave those who incarcerated him. On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.
GLOBAL RECOGNITION: It is evident that what Nelson Mandela did in South Africa reverberated across the world and he gained respect from all parts of the world. Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day) is an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to honour his life’s work and to change the world for the better.
THE LESSONS OF MANDELA’S LIFE: “So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.” Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself. —Excerpts from President JF Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech (Credit: JF Kennedy Library & Museum)
NELSON MANDELA: A MENTOR ACROSS THE DIVIDE: Sometimes, you come across speeches that directly touch hearts and raise hopes. At other times, you are faced with human conduct that could be demoralizing such that one feels the prospects of securing solutions to the myriad of problems facing humanity are almost NIL. All these thoughts, woven together, and according to Jesus Christ, ‘’the heart really matters: ‘For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). Public speech delivery is a gift that could be developed. If leaders are considered exemplary in this art, they must have developed themselves over a period of time such that they know how to engage their audience and communicate effectively with them. The 42nd President of the United States, and one of the best presidents with oratorical skills William Jefferson Clinton delivered the First Nelson Mandela Annual Lectures in South Africa on July 19, 2003.
ANCIENT WISDOM IN MODERN FORM: Such is the profound recognition accorded President Clinton that the Nelson Mandela Foundation recorded this tribute against Bill Clinton’s name: ’’During Clinton’s administration, the United States enjoyed more peace and economic well-being than at any time in its history. ‘’He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare roll’’ And Bill Clinton was most generous with accolades for Nelson Mandela. And Clinton never failed to place Mandela, a black political activist where he belonged in history.
TRIBUTE TO MANDELA: Clinton asserted that:‘’The only way we will be able to honour and celebrate our differences in the world in which we live, is if our common humanity matters more. That is the lesson of Mandela’s monumental life. Ancient wisdom, in modern form. And as to the participants, I discovered that even white people in developed nations have those they deeply respect and regard as heroes and mentors in Africa; the most backward economy of all the regions of the world. Those who are considered more advanced than Africans have heroes in Africa. Bill Clinton is noted for his penchant for weaving anecdotes, strategies and power of recall together in his discussions and speeches. The First Nelson Mandela Annual Lectures in South Africa almost 20 years ago. And the contents of his speeches are still as potent as they were 20 years ago. In the lecture, Bill Clinton enumerated several important points that policymakers and individuals need to address to banish poverty.
WE REQUIRE THE COLLECTIVE SPIRIT – BARACK OBAMA CHARGES YOUTHS: Former United States president, Barack Obama delivered the 16th annual Nelson Mandela lecture to mark the centennial of Mandela’s birth. Obama’s lecture, titled: “Renewing the Mandela Legacy & Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World,” was delivered in Johannesburg on July 17, 2018. Obama’s speech largely addressed issues of growing intolerance in a world where extremist views are increasingly finding a mainstream platform in western countries, including the United States, France and Germany. Out of curiosity and my usual fervent desire to read voraciously, I contacted the storage of the NELSON MANDELA FOUNDATION that is indeed like a Presidential Library established in the world’s foremost democracy. Excerpts from Barack Obama’s speech is reproduced below, for the purpose of mentoring and bringing out the best in the growing generation. Older ones too, most certainly will gain one or two lessons in this speech that is capable of moulding opinions to shape the course of history.
POLITICS TODAY: Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, “Oh man.” Now they just keep on lying. By the way, this is what I think Mama Graça was talking about in terms of maybe some sense of humility that Madiba felt, like sometimes just basic stuff, me not completely lying to people seems pretty basic, I don’t think of myself as a great leader just because I don’t completely make stuff up.
DEMOCRATIC CONDUCTS: You’d think that was a base line. Anyway, we see it in the promotion of anti-intellectualism and the rejection of science from leaders who find critical thinking and data somehow politically inconvenient. And, as with the denial of rights, the denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing, which is why we must zealously protect independent media; and we have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation; and we have to insist that our schools teach critical thinking to our young people, not just blind obedience. Which, I’m sure you are thankful for, leads to my final point: we have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and of hope.
DON’T BE DISCOURAGED BY CYNICISM: It is tempting to give in to cynicism: to believe that recent shifts in global politics are too powerful to push back; that the pendulum has swung permanently. Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, now you are hearing people talk about end of democracy and the triumph of tribalism and the strong man. We have to resist that cynicism. Because, we’ve been through darker times, we’ve been in lower valleys and deeper valleys. Yes, by the end of his life, Madiba embodied the successful struggle for human rights, but the journey was not easy, it wasn’t pre-ordained. The man went to prison for almost three decades. He split limestone in the heat, he slept in a small cell, and was repeatedly put in solitary confinement.
THE COLLECTIVE SPIRIT – RELY OY YOUTH FOR ADVANCEMENTS: And I remember talking to some of his former colleagues saying how they hadn’t realized when they were released, just the sight of a child, the idea of holding a child, they had missed – it wasn’t something available to them, for decades. And that’s what we need right now, we don’t just need one leader, we don’t just need one inspiration, what we badly need right now is that collective spirit. And, I know that those young people, those hope carriers are gathering around the world. Because history shows that whenever progress is threatened, and the things we care about most are in question, we should heed the words of Robert Kennedy – spoken here in South Africa, he said, “Our answer is the world’s hope: it is to rely on youth. It’s to rely on the spirit of the young.” So, young people, who are in the audience, who are listening, my message to you is simple, keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world.
Mandela said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.” Now is a good time to be aroused. Now is a good time to be fired up. And, for those of us who care about the legacy that we honour here today – about equality and dignity and democracy and solidarity and kindness, those of us who remain young at heart, if not in body – we have an obligation to help our youth succeed. Some of you know, here in South Africa, my Foundation is convening over the last few days, two hundred young people from across this continent who are doing the hard work of making change in their communities; who reflect Madiba’s values, who are poised to lead the way. People like Abaas Mpindi, a journalist from Uganda, who founded the Media Challenge Initiative, to help other young people get the training they need to tell the stories that the world needs to know.
BUILD THE FOUNDATION OF HOPE: People like Caren Wakoli, an entrepreneur from Kenya, who founded the Emerging Leaders Foundation to get young people involved in the work of fighting poverty and promoting human dignity. People like Enock Nkulanga, who directs the African Children’s mission, which helps children in Uganda and Kenya get the education that they need and then in his spare time, Enock advocates for the rights of children around the globe, and founded an organization called LeadMinds Africa, which does exactly what it says. You meet these people, you talk to them, they will give you hope. They are taking the baton, they know they can’t just rest on the accomplishments of the past, even the accomplishments of those as momentous as Nelson Mandela’s. They stand on the shoulders of those who came before, including that young black boy born 100 years ago, but they know that it is now their turn to do the work.
LOVE COMES NATURALLY FROM THE HUMAN HEART: Madiba reminds us that: “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.” Love comes more naturally to the human heart, let’s remember that truth. Let’s see it as our North Star, let’s be joyful in our struggle to make that truth manifest here on earth so that in 100 years from now, future generations will look back and say, “they kept the march going, that’s why we live under new banners of freedom.” Thank you very much, South Africa, thank you.
GETTING READY FOR LEADERSHIP — INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES: The younger generation that are eager to take over the mantles of leadership from the current leaders would profit by devoting some time to reading the history of political development in Nigeria, and the personalities that God used to free Nigeria from colonialism. . Obafemi Awolowo has been quoted as stating that: “First of all, when I was in the Calabar prison, I decided, if possible, to know something about everything.” Later, he cited the philosophers that he had read and who had influenced him. “Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Nietzsche, Locke, Hegel, Marx and Engels, Mill and a few others I can’t remember now. By the way, I am also interested in science”
My young brothers and sisters, it is important you broaden your horizon by reading and acquiring knowledge. It is also most desirable that you look up to some people as role models after which you wish to pattern your lives. You must be prepared to go through the same route these people passed without complaining. The Dictionary describes a role model as ‘’someone who you know and interact with on a regular basis, or may be someone who you’ve never met, such as a celebrity. Common role models include well known actors, public figures such as police men or political officials, teachers or other educators, and parents or other family members’’
NNAMDI AZIKIWE: In his inaugural speech as the first indigenous governor-general of Nigeria stated that: The sanctity of the person the right of a person to fair and public trial, the assumption of the innocence of an accused person until he is proved guilty: these are examples of the basic human rights which feature our constitution and which I have sworn today to uphold. But there are other ancillaries to these elements of liberal democracy. I have in mind religious freedom – freedom of thought. freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, the independence of a responsible judiciary; which is conscious of its responsibilities in a democratic society; and the existence of an untarnishable public service, whose members are appointed or promoted strictly on the merit of their qualifications and good character and not on any other extraneous criteria…’’
ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA: In his 1960 Independence Day speech stated that: ‘’When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our Independence it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to place on the world stage. Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition, so that we find ourselves today being tested to the utmost We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilization. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination.
Barack Obama, in his inaugural speech admonished that: “In the face of our common dangers, let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”…….. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize grandly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and promise of citizenship.”
CIVILITY IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS: In his inaugural speech delivered on January 20, 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy pledged that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. “So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.” Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself…Credit: JK Kennedy Presidential Library)