One of my earliest memories of school was an assembly with our whole school standing in the quad holding hands giving thanks and praying. Why were we praying and giving thanks? Our nation had just been set free and peace was on the horizon. It was the day Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of our country. To this day I get chills thinking of that fateful day. It was a time of high anxiety and hope when no one knew what was going to happen. There were protests in the downtown of our city. There was election violence on the news every night. We practised what to do if the riots spilled into our school. It was a country on the edge.
Through it all Nelson Mandela held his composure and stood tall for what he believed in: freedom and equality for all. It is hard to describe how South Africans feel about him. He is our nations grandfather. We look up to him and he is a revered national figure. This is why anytime you see news about his health you see us weep. It is because he brought our country in from the brink.
As I look back there are many lessons I learned from him that I still carry with me today in my life and into my classroom each and everyday.
He taught us that forgiveness is of utmost importance. Holding onto hate only feeds into the cycle of violence and oppression.
Mandela showed us the importance of Tolerance, that we are all equal and that we are all human. It is up to us to stand up to intolerance in all of its forms and to see the humanity in others.
Despite being put in jail Mandela persevered and never gave up on what he believed in. It took unimaginable courage to fight the fight he did. In the face of it all he never gave up. He also made tough decisions that impacted many.
Mandela has always been a humble person and never seemed to be above even the most common man.
He showed us the importance of teamwork as he worked with his oppressors to bring about peace to our nation. He urged South Africans to work together for peace and prosperity.
His quiet and gentle leadership showed that you need not be overpowering or radical in order to get where you want to go.
Mandela always maintained that it would take time for the wounds to heal and for change to hold. We all need to have patience and to accept that some things will take time.
There is always hope. No matter how dark the days seem and how long the journey may be there is always hope for a better future.
No one is perfect and one man cannot save a country. South Africa still faces unimaginable challenges. It is dealing with crushing poverty, corruption, horrendous violent crime and many other ills. Despite all this it is a beautiful country with beautiful people who will hopefully onto hold the lessons they learned for generations to come.