by BRIANNA SICILIANO Photo/Video Editor
Nelson Mandela, a freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and symbol of the struggle against racial oppression in South Africa, passed away at the age of 95 on Thursday, December 5.
His message of reconciliation, not vengeance, inspired the world after he negotiated a peaceful end to apartheid. Mandela urged forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.
Mandela served only one term as South Africa’s president, and had not been seen in public since 2010, when the nation hosted the soccer World Cup.
However, his decades in prison and his insistence on forgiveness over vengeance made him a potent symbol of the struggle to end the country’s brutally codified system of racial domination, and of the power of peaceful resolution in even the most intractable conflicts.
“Honestly, Mandela is a huge icon for people worldwide, not just South Africans. I have read a lot of interviews and quotes that he said and it just leaves you in awe. The man is a hero and people are better because of him,” said junior Giulietta Flaherty.
Mandela battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
Despite rare public appearances, he held a special place in the consciousness of the nation and the world.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” South African President Jacob Zuma said. “What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”
Mr. Mandela and Mr. Obama both served as the first black leaders of their nations, and both men won the Nobel Peace Prize, yet the American president has shied away from comparisons. Obama noted that his own sacrifices would never compare to the ones that Mandela endured.
Obama said that the world would “not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” and he noted that the former South African president had once said that he was “not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
Zuma did not announce the specific cause of Mandela’s death, but it is known that Mandela had battled pneumonia and other lung ailments for the past six months, causing him to be in and out of hospitals.
“Although my heart breaks knowing that Mandela has passed away, the fact that he survived all of the hardships that he faced and managed to live until 95 is very inspiring. Mandela gives me hope and motivates me to stay strong. Look at all that he has accomplished,” said junior Hiral Patel.
Mandela is an inspiration to us all. What will you do to honor and remember this phenomenal leader?