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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Mandela Memory Underscores a Resilient Leader

You have heard of the passing of Nelson Mandela, the first president of South Africa elected by all of her people in 1994.  When I visited South Africa a year after his inauguration one memorable moment was a conversation off the coast of Cape Town with an “English” sail boat captain who had been a conscientious objector to the universal draft of white South Africans when he was in college. He told me about how every person of his generation knows exactly where they were when two events occurred: Mandela’s release after 27 years (!) imprisoned on the Robbins Island, and the day when the Springboks Rugby team (integrated for the first time in history) beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup.

Historically Rugby had been a exclusive “white” sport (played by Afrikaans and English young men) and Soccer was a “black” sport. But as depicted in the movie “Invictus” (starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon) , Mandela’s decision to support rather than disband this team, and the moment when he walked on to the field wearing a Springbok jersey, was a powerful symbol of reconciliation.

And the South African National Anthem – banned during the years of Apartheid now sung in both Xhosa and Afrikaans and English.  One of the most moving anthems of our time

Listen and believe that good people can make a difference.

– John McDargh, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Theology Boston College

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