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Mandela was symbol of perseverance; patience

Nelson Mandela, who died at age 95 on Thursday, helped abolish the apartheid in South Africa and promote peaceful equality for the world.
Tens of thousands of people gathered for Mandela’s memorial Tuesday in South Africa, including Barack Obama, who spoke of Mandela’s global influence.
“Mandela showed us the power of action, of taking risks on behalf of our ideals,” Obama stated in his speech.
John Tawiah-Boateng, professor in English and African Studies, thinks of Mandela as a teacher for the people of South Africa and the world.
“There is also the vast wealth of patience and endurance, perseverance that he had and which he taught to his people,” said Tawiah-Boateng.
Before becoming President of South Africa in 1994, Mandela co-founded militant groups in South Africa and led a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. He was then sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to overthrow the state in 1962.
Mandela was often labeled as a terrorist and communist for his efforts to overthrow the white government in South Africa.
“He was more violent before prison,” said Todd Cleveland, professor in history and African studies. “His years in jail made him realize he was advocating nonviolence and that that wasn’t working.”
Mandela was released from jail in 1990 after an international campaign lobbied for his release, emerging as a reformed leader who promoted peaceful equality between blacks and whites in South Africa.
“His brilliance and his genius is that instead of emerging from jail bitter and seeking vengeance, he realizes that reconciliation is more of an answer,” said Cleveland.
Also known as “Madiba” or “father of the nation,” Mandela became President of South Africa in May 1994, establishing multiracial elections and abolishing the apartheid led by white British politicians.
Tawiah-Boateng sees Mandela as a courageous leader who seemed to embody the opposite characteristics of someone who was jailed for 27 years.
“On one hand, as a constitutional lawyer, he insisted everyone was entitled to freedom and rights of citizenship,” he said. “But on the other hand, when he failed, it looked like a good opportunity for revenge and yet at that point his main purpose was of teaching forgiveness, reconciliation and building a strong South Africa.”
Cleveland thinks of Mandela as a remarkable example who sent out a powerful message to the world.
“No individual could have bridged the gap between blacks and whites,” he said. “It took an amazing individual to assume the reigns of power that Mandela did.”
While president, Mandela created a new constitution and a commission to investigate human rights abuses. He continued to make efforts to reduce poverty and AIDS, expand healthcare and encourage land reform.
Mandela made political, social, and economic changes to South Africa, but was a symbol and influence in the U.S. and the world.
“All people of all religions, nationalities, backgrounds can take inspiration from him,” said Tawiah-Boateng. “He influenced the entire population of the U.S. and the world at large because of the universality of the ideas that he stood for all.”
The Study Abroad Program at Augustana is offering a South African program, which may not have been possible if not for Mandela’s democratic efforts.
If Mandela had not abolished the apartheid, black students would have had to separate from whites in hotels, universities and public places if they were allowed to travel to South Africa.
Although there are still economic, racial and health issues in South Africa, Mandela created a foundation for moral courage and leadership.
“I wish people would talk more about Mandela being the first among equals,” said Tawiah-Boateng. “He was the greatest among the great.”
Mandela lived humbly the rest of his life after serving one term as president with continued global activism.
In the words of Mandela himself, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

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Mandela was symbol of perseverance; patience