Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born in 1918 the 94 year old South African politician and public servant has become a revolutionary figure in world history. Currently hospitalized in Pretoria Hospital holding on for life support millions of people paid honor to the hero using social media outlets. A life filled with anger and hate from the right wing party he fought his entire life against was also filled with respect and honor from the millions of people’s who’s lives changed because of him. He has received over 250 awards and honors including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. His hard work and fight will live on beyond his life and death.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa before becoming, an a remarkable twist, the country’s first black president. Nelson Mandela was a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC), which opposed South Africa’s white minority government and its policy of racial separation, known as apartheid. The government outlawed the ANC in 1960. Mandela was captured and jailed in 1962, and in 1964 he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. South African President F.W. de Klerk finally lifted the ban on the ANC and released Mandela in 1990.
He became a government employee when he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994. It was an extraordinary day, filled with pomp and excitement. But the importance of that day goes far beyond the election of one man.
More than a change in administrations — and U.S. government employees know what that can mean — Mandela’s inauguration marked the eradication of a system of government based on race and its replacement with a democratic one.