A young boy is born into a racially mixed family- his mother white, father black. He lives with his father in a separate neighborhood, a black neighborhood. The boy is not allowed to be seen in public with his mother, his very conception a crime. Where is he? South Africa, 1989.
Apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa ended in 1994 with a multi-racial democratic election, one in which blacks could vote alongside whites. The victor of that election was none other than Nelson Mandela. Though he was only in power for five years, Mandela was a monumental moral influence on the world, a symbol of revolution, resistance and triumph over racial segregation.
Mandela died on Dec. 5, at the age of 95, but his impact will be felt forever.
Born into South African royalty, Mandela earned a college education and a law degree. At university, he met meet fellow activists fighting against apartheid. As a result, Mandela dedicated his life to ending apartheid.
Classified as a terrorist by the South African government, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his work. Despite imprisonment, he refused to bend on his beliefs in order to be .released, stating that he would die for his ideals.
“I think Mandela’s most important contribution was his example of persistence. He dedicated his life to a cause. His pursuit of equality was never hindered.
“Mandela realized that there would be road blocks to progress but he pushed after it with constant passion,” Cultural Studies teacher Kendra Polito said.
Mandela’s life didn’t just move the world; it also moved individuals.
Polito continued, “Mandela has inspired me personally through his speeches and writing. He believed that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. It’s not about success, or self-improvement. He used his education to improve the world.
“He knew where the people’s hearts were and how to motivate them. He tried to value and recognize everyone in the room, and was able to use people’s strengths,” she said.