South Africa-Based Alumna Reflects on Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

Photo shows a memorial in Cape Town, South Africa, for Nelson Mandela

Meredith alumna Pamela Vanias, ’10, currently works in South Africa as a community development intern with Global Visions International. Vanias shared the following reflection on former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela on December 10, the day of the public memorial service for the human rights leader.

Vanias wrote: “Today, South Africa mourns the death of a hero, leader, educator and father of its nation.  Nelson (Madiba) Mandela passed away at 8:50 p.m. South Africa time on Thursday, December 5, surrounded by his family. 

During his life, Mandela transformed his country through his fight for a free society in which all people of South Africa could live together in peace with equal opportunity.  He is an inspiration to us all for his unsurpassable love, dedication, and devotion for equality, which forced the world’s attention on apartheid.  South African President Jacob Zuma, stated, ‘Our nation has lost its greatest son.  Our people have lost a father.  What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human.  We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.’  President Barack Obama echoed by saying, ‘We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.  He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages.’

This past weekend, I took a trip to Cape Town to visit the Grand Parade where Nelson Mandela made his first speech on February 11, 1990, after having spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island.  The streets were lined with flowers, photos, and memorials for Mandela.  While a somber moment for many, it also held true to be a party and celebration of life for the great hero that Nelson Mandela was and always will be.

Although South Africa is still not an ideal nation of equality, the people continue striving for further progress.  And while Nelson Mandela may not be with us any longer, his spirit will live forever in our hearts and he will never be forgotten.”

Vanias also shared the photos of memorials on Cape Town’s Grand Parade that accompany this story.

Vanias earned a degree in family and consumer sciences at Meredith College. Her internship involves working on education programs in South African townships.  Once she completes this assignment in South Africa, she plans to work in Kenya with a non-governmental organization Kenya Network of Women with AIDS, and then will work in Uganda at Circle of Peace School. Vanias plans to attend graduate school in Washington, D.C., next fall for a master’s in International Educational Development.

In 2006, Professor of Human Environmental Sciences Deborah Tippett visited the prison on Robben Island while in South Africa for a conference. Tippett, who taught Vanias at Meredith College, also reflected on Nelson Mandela’s global importance.

Tippett respects Mandela’s “desire for peace through the truth and reconciliation trials and of his dream of a rainbow nation.  Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994 and in his inaugural speech he stated, ‘Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.’”

Tippett uses her experience in South Africa when teaching her Families in a Global Perspective course. “I always talk about Nelson Mandela and my experience at Robben Island.  I talk about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation to heal,” Tippett said.

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