Mandela remembered

Mandela remembered

Heartbreak filled the international community when Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president died on December 5. Mandela, leader of the struggle for the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990’s and a Robben Island inmate for 27 years, passed away at the age of 95. His death was announced by current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma.

Mandela’s death sparked worldwide mourning, as well as remembrance of his accomplishments. For Lucia Proctor-Bonbright (’14), Mandela’s death hit home. Proctor-Bonbright, whose mother is a native of Johannesburg, met Mandela when she was younger. His death shook her deeply, although she was expecting for him to pass away due to his poor health in recent years. “We’ve all been preparing for it for a while after seeing how frail he was becoming,” she said. “It is the end to an era and remembering the struggle and the success, you’re crying with happiness.” Social Studies Teacher Todd Pavel sees Mandela’s ascent to presidency in 1994 as a momentous occasion for South Africa. “What was so important with his rise to power
was this theme of reconciliation and trying to get the country to come forward with its immediate past,” he said.

Audrey Leland (’14) is president of the South Africa Club and has also been on the spring Global Partnerships trip to South Africa twice. Each year on the South Africa trip students visit Mandela’s cell on Robben Island where he was imprisoned for 27 years. For many students, the experience is an important insight into his life. “Everybody knows about him, but nobody really has a direct connection to him. Seeing his
impact is really important,” Leland said. For Chloe Gardner (’14), Mandela’s death sparked the possibility of his messages being heard again. “I hope that his death is a resurgence of his morals and the messages that he spread. He singlehandedly changed the world by leading and by having a strong
moral compass,” she said. A common trend with the deaths of influential figures in the past is a rejuvenation of their ideas. However, after a certain amount of time, this resurgence ends. Gardner hopes that this won’t be the case with Mandela’s death. “I really hope with social media
that there isn’t a peak in attention and that instead his influence is lasting,” she said. Pavel sees Mandela as a voice of change for the South African population during his presidency while trying to abolish apartheid. “It was a huge step in South Africa’s history– from the late 1940s to the 1990s apartheid had been in place. Many international communities tried to get apartheid to end [before Mandela’s rise to presidency],” he said.

Nelson Mandela While Mandela preached peace throughout his presidency, earlier in his life he believed in a different way to end the discrimination against blacks. Mandela helpedfound Umkhonto we Sizwe, a terrorist group in South Africa that killed many innocent civilians, but sought to fight against the apartheid South African government. However, after dedicating his life to peaceful reconciliation, Mandela’s violent past is not what people usually recognize him for. “He stands for justice, he stands for facing the difficult issue of racial inequality head on. I think he resonates so deeply with so
many people because he was so willing to sacrifice so much of his own time for a cause,” Pavel said. “I don’t think everyone completely understands the impact he has had.”
While PE teacher Gwendolyn Williams never personally knew Mandela, when he passed away it still upset her deeply. “I was still affected by it because it’s almost like a relative dying, you know it’s going to happen but when it happens it’s a sad thing,” she said. Williams, who is the trip leader for the Global Partnerships trip to South Africa, views Mandela’s death as a celebration rather than a time of mourning. “We shouldn’t be sad, we should celebrate his life because this is a man who when he entered the room he lit it up. He made people stop and think,” she said. Gardner agrees that Mandela was an inspirational person, and is grateful for what Mandela has given to the world. “There’s something comforting knowing that a hero
has walked the same earth as you,” she said.

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