Around the world, people are mourning the passing of former South African president, Nelson Mandela. He is remembered as a revolutionary against Apartheid and as a world leader.
Mandela passed away on December 5th at the age of 95. He had been suffering from a series of lung infections that had lead to several hospitalizations.
The impact Mandela has had can be felt not just in South Africa, but across the globe. Even here in Syracuse.
The Director of Syracuse University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs calls Nelson Mandela a father to the whole world. James Duah-Agyeman remembers when Mandela was released from prison in 1990, calling it a peaceful moment in history he thought would never come. In fact, Duah-Agyeman says his peaceful nature is something all world leaders should strive for.
“Those who want to use force may oppose him for being that calm and being that strategic in his approach, but his willpower and his peaceful approach to life to conquer hate, I think that’s something that world leaders can learn from."
Duah-Agyeman also said that Mandela is not just a role model for political leaders, but for everybody, especially the youth of today. SU Political Science Professor SN Sangmpam said reactionaries are making things difficult both in the U.S. and abroad because they have a triumphant memory of the past of oppression and slavery. This is where he feels they need to be forgiving like Mandela.
“If you come from Eastern Europe or the countries from Europe or on the side of African-Americans if you come from Africa. Everyone should forget about their memory of bitterness and to understand that now this is a different nation and they are to move on to rebuild it. That seems to me what everyone should learn from Mandela.”
Sangmpam adds that not letting the past go is making things difficult for President Obama when he tries to push policies that would be good for everyone. He also cautions the U.S. and Americans not to force new immigrants, who may not even be aware of the past, to take sides with whites or blacks but, rather to be united as a country.
Albany Law School Dean Penny Andrews actually got to meet with Mandela and said he was the same gentle, welcoming man in private that he was in public.
"He greeted everybody as though you were his very close friend and I think it's a wonderful quality, it's very warm and engaging."
Andrews met Mandela in 1991 and later got him to agree to write the foreword for her book on the South African constitution. She was born in South Africa and attended university in Durban during the turbulent period after she says Mandela became the focal point of the anti-apartheid movement. Now, as the world grieves Mandela’s death and celebrates his life, Andrews reflects on the crucial moments as the world watched South Africa embrace democracy.
"It was an exciting time. The first few months after Mandela's election as president, it was euphoric, it was wonderful. South Africa was a place where there were so many people from everywhere coming. It was really quite marvelous."
The fate of the new government rested in Mandela’s hands, and Andrews says it was thanks to his leadership, ability to reconcile and to forgive that South Africa became a successful democracy. Today, Andrews is influenced by Mandela’s ideals as she continues her work for human rights in the world.
In memory of Mandela, President Obama ordered that all United States flags be flown at half mast until Monday. This is a rare honor for a foreign leader.