October 22, 2012
Three years ago I went on an amazing trip to South Africa with my family for Christmas. I anticipated the trip would primarily be a care-free vacation where I could relax on the beaches, take in the sights, go Great White Shark diving and eat the exotic food to my stomachs content. Yet little did I realize that my time in South Africa would dramatically impact the rest of my life and my personal values and beliefs. South Africa is a beautiful country full of so much culture and history. I admit I had my reservations before going- possessing the stereotypical beliefs of many travelers going to a new and strange place. Our tour guide, Jordan, grew up in a Soweto in Johannesburg. A Soweto is a very poor part of the city where most of its inhabitants live in less than desirable huts and don’t have access to clean water and utilities. Many of them don’t get electricity. My brother and I became so captivated by Jordan’s story that we insisted that he took us to the part of the Soweto where he grew up. My father was of course terrified, but after some reassurance of our safety, he obliged. It was there that I heard the heart of South Africa, the real people who endure so much hardship, talk about a leader who dramatically their lives. “Leaders are persons who, by word and/or personal example, markedly influence the behaviors, thoughts, and/or feelings of a significant number of their fellow human beings.” When I initially heard this quote and was asked to write about a leader who exemplified I immediately thought of Nelson Mandela. I had first hand experience seeing what Mandela actually did for his nation and the impact that his actions still have on them today.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is one of the most revered and honored public figures in history. He sacrificed his life for his followers in the fight to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy. Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His real name is Rolihlahla, which means "to pull a branch of a tree" and "troublemaker”, was given to him by his father who was the principal counselor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. The Thembu people are a small nation that resides in South Africa. When Mandela was nine, he became the first member of his family to go to school. There one of his professors gave him the English name, Nelson. Mandela excelled at school and completed his Junior Certificate, an educational qualification for students who have completed the junior cycle of secondary education, in two years instead of the typical three. Mandela then enrolled at Fort Hare University where he met Oliver Tambo, who ended up becoming one of his life-long friends and joined him in his battle. Although Mandela was only at Fort Hare for a short time after becoming involved in a Students’ Representative Council boycott which was against the universities policies. Fort Hare insisted that Mandela leave the school unless he decided to join the Students’ Representative Council. The Thembu tribe, which Mandela was still attached to, had arranged a marriage for him and requested that he return home. Mandela had no desire to be a part of an arranged marriage so instead he moved to Johannesburg and began working as a clerk at a local law firm. He also went back to school and finished with Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of South Africa and then started studying law at the University of Witwatersrand. I believe this is when Mandela’s political views truly started to take form. At the same time, Mandela and his friend Tambo started the law firm Mandel and Tambo. They strived to provide legal counsel to many South Africans who couldn’t afford proper attorney representation. In 1944 Mandela became involved in the African National Congress and began participating in politics. He...