Millions of people around the world are remembering the life and legacy of former South Africa president, Nelson Mandela. Had he lived, Mandela would not only be celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day today, he would also be celebrating his 100th birthday.
The United Nations is using his centenary as an opportunity to follow Mandela’s call to “make of the world a better place”.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation is dedicating this year’s Mandela Day to action against poverty, honouring his leadership and devotion to fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all.
To many, that is a fitting way to honour the legacy of a man whose life-long fight against injustice and racial prejudice still inspires people across the world who uphold the noble ideals of freedom and dignity.
Some of the memories the world vividly remembers include Mandela’s address to the court during his unjustified trial for treason in April 1964 when the Apartheid Government in South Africa sought to put him to death.
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said. “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 need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
It is a statement many believe defined Mandela as a strong advocate of freedom, human rights, equality, and justice. It also served as a rallying cry against tyranny and oppression.
The true mettle of this great man was displayed after he was elected president of South Africa in 1994. Mandela rejected exacting vengeance on white South Africans for the decades of wrong brought about because of apartheid. By doing so he upheld the principles that framed his belief in humanity.
Another memorable occasion was when he, along with then South African President F W de Klerk, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In accepting the award, Mr. Mandela displayed great humility, saying: “The award was a tribute to all South Africans, and especially to those who fought in the struggle; I would accept it on their behalf.”
In honouring Mandela, the South African Reserve Bank unveiled new commemorative South African bank notes, depicting the face of Nelson Mandela. The notes and coins recognize his 100th birthday and also acknowledge several key historical moments in Mandela’s life.
As in past years, people around the world are encouraged to use 18 July to take action and inspire change by devoting time to community service, focused on fighting poverty, supporting vulnerable groups, and promoting human rights.
Let us use President Mandela’s life as a source of inspiration, and when challenges present themselves, as they will, let us gather strength from the wise instructions of this man, who told us: “It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”