Friday, July 18, 2008

T.G.I.F.: Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

It's Friday, July 18, 2008, and 90 years ago Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa. And there are so many things that are T.G.I.F. (The Great Impossible Feat) about the fact that Mandela is celebrating his 90th birthday today.

[I love this photo of Mandela--don't you wish you were able to laugh like that WITH him--that would be incredible!]

Nelson Mandela devoted his life to issues of social justice and civil rights for people in South Africa and people around the world. He was imprisoned in Robben's Island for 18 years (he was sent there in 1964) and after 1982 he was transferred to a Pollsmoor prison until 1990. So he was incarcerated for over 26 years--all for wanting something so basic: the equal and fair treatment of black South Africans--the end of Apartheid, a system of oppression, racism, and violence. And this was not 26 years of easy living--he experienced torturous circumstances--physical as well as mental and emotional. And he refused to compromise his political convictions to secure an early release. He lived by his principles.

[This was Mandela's cell at Robben's Island]

Nelson Mandela's life and work became known to the world during his imprisonment, largely through his wife Winnie Mandela, as well as the scores of freedom fighters in South Africa and around the world working to end apartheid. When he was released he became president of the ANC, but more importantly, he worked to heal the wounds that apartheid had left--he became a symbol to his people and to the world of courage, of fortitude, and of forgiveness.

To learn more about Mandela, you can read his profile on the Nobel Prize website (he won the Peace Prize in 1993), listen to this piece on NPR, read about the significance of his life and work in this Root article, and watch a BBC slideshow about his life, while listening to an interview with him.

For any one of us to turn 90 would be an incredible feat. For a man whose life has been so great--a man who has worked so long and so hard for the cause of equality and peace, to turn 90 is truly a Great Incredible Feat.

Happy Birthday Madiba (what he is affectionately called by those in South Africa)--may you celebrate this day with those you love--there are many around the world who wish you all the best and all the blessings that you richly deserve.

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