Do you know when your friend has a birthday? Do you sometimes buy a small gift for them, or make sure to say, “Happy Birthday!” to them?
The Nelson Mandela Day, on July 18th, is a day to think about social justice, helping the poor, promoting peace, making peace with people we have trouble with, and cultural diversity.
But who is this Nelson Mandela? Why is his birthday important?
Let me share with you a few important things about the great man, the bright light of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela was born in South Africa. He was born in 1918, and that was a long time ago. But at that time, South Africa was a terrible place. It was terrible and dangerous. Through many years of Nelson Mandela’s life the rule of South Africa was a rule called, “Apartheid”. This word, “Apartheid” was a rule that gave special powers to white people in South Africa and took everything from black people in South Africa. The situation in South Africa was very dangerous for any black person. The white police could take any black person to the police station. Many black people were murdered.
Nelson Mandela organized with other black South Africans to fight for justice, and freedom, and equality. He was taken by the police in the year 1962 and put into prison. Nelson Mandela lived in prison for 27 years.
27 years is a very, very long time.
In 1990, the president of South Africa, a man named F.W. de Klerk freed Nelson Mandela from prison. The two men worked together to begin to heal the nation, and to finally end the South African policy of “Apartheid”. Four years later, in 1994, Nelson Mandela became the new President of South Africa.
In his time as president, Nelson Mandela began to heal the country of South Africa. Changes to human rights and helping the poor, improving education for blacks, and for greatly improving all areas of South African life.
One of the most amazing things that Nelson Mandela did as President was that he forgave the people who hurt him the most. He was in prison for 27 years, but he can forgive the people who put him there for so long. Nelson Mandela said that hate is something that will hurt your own heart, so to forgive other people is the best human action to do. That is amazing. I do not know anyone who has as big a heart as Nelson Mandela.
The image and life of Nelson Mandela to the very end of his days — he passed away in 2013, was about forgiving others, helping the poor, improving health and education, and making the world better for children. He is deeply respected around the world and his is often called by the name, “Madiba”, which means, “Father of the Nation”.
When we learn about great people of the past, and about the best ways to live, we need to take some time to study history. There are great lessons in books about the past. I hope you will read much and think much, and ask your teachers much. We find our own way in the world because of great people like Nelson Mandela.
So, Happy Birthday Madiba. Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela.