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The UN asks individuals around the world to mark Nelson Mandela International Day on the day he was born, 18th of July. This is a commemoration that encourage us to make a difference in our life as a community. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for all to take action and inspire change.

“In a cynical world we have become an inspiration to many. We signal that good can be achieved among human beings who are prepared to trust, prepared to believe in the goodness of people.”

-Nelson Mandela, 10th years of Democracy address, Cape Town, May 10, 2014

In today’s world of disasters from climate change, the growing gap between rich and poor, terrorist attacks and President Trump, leader of the most powerful nation on earth eroding trust in the integrity of leadership with his constant use of twitter ill-considered comments; yes cynicism is surely present.

Nelson Mandela spent most of his life fighting the injustices of apartheid. And after spending 27 years in prison he went on to win the first fully democratic election in South African history.

In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of work for human equality.  In the quote above, he speaks of trust and belief in the goodness of people.

The following are some quotes when he address and spoke of ordinary people and their participation in governance during a rally in Durban, 25 February 1990:

“Since my release, I have become more convinced than ever that the real makers of history are the ordinary men and women of our country. Their participation in every decision about the future is the only guarantee of true democracy and freedom.”

In his speech at an event to meet leaders for the Free State, September 17, 1994 he stated:

“Freedom should not be understood to mean leadership positions or even appointments to top positions. It must be understood as the transformation of the lives of ordinary people in the hostels and the ghettos; in the squatter camps; on the farms and in the mine compounds. It means constant consultation between leaders and members of their organizations; it demands of us to be in constant touch with the people, to understand their needs, hopes and fears; and to work together with them to improve their conditions.”

Is this not the very message we desperately need today when so many feel isolated from decision-making and victims of multinationals and market forces they do not understand?

Nelson Mandela is a beacon of hope and inspiration and his words are relevant today. In Canada we also have a related and inspirational document, “The Leap Manifesto which sets out values similar to those of Nelson Mandela.

-Rosemary Williamson, OLM

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