Remembering Mandela

For more than half a century, Nelson Mandela inspired people around the world to embrace principles of freedom, equality, and justice. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, members of the University of Rochester’s Pan-African Students Association invite the campus community to commemorate Mandela at 7 p.m. on the steps of Rush Rhees Library. As the community gathers to celebrate his memory, The Buzz collected thoughts from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, who share their reflections on Mandela’s teachings and the lessons they’ll continue to carry with them.

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Tata Madiba was a moral giant, whose capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness is unequaled. Despite being brutalized by the Apartheid regime, he chose to take the high road and to lead South Africa into democracy, when he could just as easily have led the country into anarchy. I loved how he stood up for human rights—all human rights. I loved his commitment to children, and how he encouraged them to live up to their potential. I loved his leadership. How could one not admire a man who led by example? I loved how he maintained his humility, even when he was President. I loved how he would spontaneously break out into song and dance whenever the opportunity presented itself—the Madiba shuffle never failed to bring a smile to my face. In the present tense, I love the legacy that he has left us with.
And now he is gone.
Hamba kahle, Tata. Rest in peace.

Jennifer Hadingham
Hadingham, assistant director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, is a native of South Africa and a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

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I’ve always admired Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, his anti-apartheid leadership as a freedom fighter and the lessons he instilled on the world about peace and reconciliation. I was most affected by Mandela during my studies abroad in South Africa. In this capacity, I was exposed to the resilience of the human spirit and captivated by the way in which those once suppressed maintained hope despite their circumstances and truly believed in a better tomorrow.

Charlene Cooper ’12
Cooper, who studied abroad in Cape Town, was a member of the Black Students’ Union and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Rochester. She also was a student editor of the OMSA Chronicle, a bi-annual publication of the Office of Minority Student Affairs.

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As young student activists we trusted the man’s vision and judgment and like very few other leaders he kept the faith of the people until the very end. We will not see his likes again for a very long time.

Eldred Chimowitz
Chimowitz, professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, is the author of Between the Menorah and the Fever Tree, a story of a Jewish-African boy coming-of-age during the Apartheid era.

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During my time in South Africa, I began to understand the concept of Ubuntu through my time of community service in the township of Khayelitsha as a math tutor. Nelson Mandela’s philosophy of Ubuntu inspired me to adopt Ubuntu as a way of life, to become more compassionate and kind toward the needs of others. Ultimately, Ubuntuism encouraged and influenced me to strengthen the development of disadvantaged communities as a global and American citizen.

Maxine Humphrey ’13
Humphrey, who majored in international relations at Rochester, studied abroad in Cape Town as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar during the spring 2012 semester.

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I was one of those college students that believed strongly in the anti-Apartheid disinvestment campaign taking place on our campuses during the late 1970’s-mid 80’s. I was indeed moved to action by the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the resistance and activism displayed by black South Africans towards a racist government. In fact, I was proud to play a small part in challenging universities to divest from companies who conducted business with the government of South Africa.

I’m am certain that Mandela’s visionary leadership helped to inform my life-long interest in fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged and underserved in our country

Norman Burnett
Burnett is the assistant dean and director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program at the University of Rochester.

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Nelson Madiba Mandela might have been larger than life, but he was also human. As much as I did not agree with his stand on a few things, he deserves acknowledgement for his courage to publicly stand for what he believed in, which was a source of inspiration to many, especially in Africa. The world is full of many cowards who run the show. Mandela has taught me not to be afraid to articulate my stand on crucial matters, however unpopular that stand may be. I will not say Rest In Peace, for Mandela, it is Rest in Power.

Lendsey Achudi ’14
Achudi is a former assistant to the Ambassador of the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations and a native of Maseno, Kenya.

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Gandhi’s journey of nonviolence as a form of political action was born in twenty years of activism in South Africa, as was our Institute’s founder, Arun Gandhi. We celebrate South Africa’s global leadership in nonviolence and remember the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela.

More than anything I honor the Truth and Reconciliation processes that Mandela led and supported. What might our own community and nation be like if we stopped to mourn the devastation that genocide and slavery have created in the lives of all Americans?

Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom has remained on our staff pick page because of the inspiration we draw from his words and shining example. If you haven’t read it yet, consider making a New Year’s resolution to do so as a way to honor Nelson Mandela.

Kit Miller
Miller is the director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and an expert in nonviolent communication.

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As a 2012 summer student in Cape Town, I spent Nelson Mandela’s birthday commemorating his living legacy of service and civic engagement in solidarity with South Africans throughout the nation. It is my hope that, to honor Madiba’s legacy, we will emulate his pursuit of equality and peace, while striving for his remarkable humility.

Katherine Wegman ’15
Wegman, a biology and anthropology major, studied abroad in Cape Town in summer 2013.

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I was amazed by the fact that this beautiful country was freed of apartheid only in 1994. Such freedom and equality was achieved after years of blood and sweat, and with the work of great leadership figures like Madiba. Even though he has passed away, I truly believe his legacy and spirit will breath throughout the country forever—so many people that I’ve met in South Africa proved to be the living models of his values and teachings, endorsing freedom, justice, and equality.

Rachel Park ’14
A chemistry major at Rochester, Park studied abroad in Cape Town in fall 2013.

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Mandela epitomizes a courage and leadership which I attempt to emulate. He demonstrated that strong leadership need not be synonymous with power. His Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught the healing power of transparent communication in the face of atrocity—a lesson which guides my desire to create a “just culture” in medicine.

Martin Wegman ’10
Wegman, who studied abroad in South Africa as an undergrad at Rochester, is currently pursuing a medical degree at the University of Florida. While in South Africa, he served as a clinical research assistant for a tuberculosis vaccine initiative in Cape Town.

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Let us remember Nelson Mandela for his humility amongst successes, his forthrightness in admitting his wrongs, and his steadfast dedication while overcoming challenges. For quite some time the world has had him to lead by example, so in his passing let us never forget that he’s left a plethora of inspiring messages and examples to continue to emulate. One in particular that I read prior to going abroad excited me for my time in South Africa more than any other guide or history book could: “The anchor of all my dreams is the collective wisdom of mankind as a whole. I am influenced more than ever before by the conviction that social equality is the only basis for human happiness.” At the time this conviction felt familiar, but distant, as if it had once been part of American culture but was lost in the daily grind of economic progress. However, once in South Africa, every day I saw, heard, and experienced things that reminded me that I was surrounded by people who wanted nothing more than to see their country truly united as a safe, fair home for all who lived there. Mandela did his best to get the ball rolling; it is now his countrymen’s, and all of our turn, to not let his efforts fade, but blossom. Thank you for giving us the tools for continued pursuit of equality, Madiba. Ke nako.

Laura Lyons ’14
A chemical engineering major, Lyons studied abroad in South Africa during the fall 2012 semester.

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The Buzz will continue to collect remembrances of Mandela through Friday, Dec. 13. Email thebuzz@rochester.edu if you’d like to have your thoughts included on our page.