Monday, July 18, 2011

Celebrating Nelson Mandela Day

It amazes and delights me that it was my son who reminded me, that today was Nelson Mandela Day. My son was born 11 years ago, after Apartheid, after Mandela's liberation from prison, after Madiba served as President for the same country which had put him behind bars for 27 years.

During last year's Football World Cup - hosted by South Africa - I insisted in enlightening my kids about South Africa's history, Apartheid and the role of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Desmond Tutu. Yes, that would be the Archbishop who was wearing a yellow t-shirt and was dancing with the yellow and black Bafana banner wrapped around him.

Well, all that lecturing seems to have paid off. So, why not take the time today to talk to your kids about South Africa, Apartheid and Nelson Mandela.

Under South Africa's apartheid regime, Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of sabotage and attempts to overthrow the government. He was released in 1990 and became president in 1994.

Since 2009, the former South African president's birthday has been designated "Nelson Mandela International Day."

But July 18 isn't a National holiday. Supported by the United Nations, it's a day of public service, on which people are encouraged to spend at least 67 minutes doing some kind of community service in honor of the 67 years Mandela spent fighting for social justice. It is a call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time, just as Nelson Mandela did.

"Together, the best way we can thank Nelson Mandela for his work is by taking action for others and inspiring change," U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said last week.

Mandela is now too frail for public appearances, battling the health problems that come with old age. But many in South Africa want to remind him, and others, that his sacrifices and his extraordinary life journey are not forgotten.

Click here to download the 2011 Nelson Mandela International Day fact sheet.

Click here for 67 ways to observe Nelson Mandela International Day.

You also might be interested in "The 16th Man" a documentary about South Africa's rugby team narrated by Morgan Freeman.

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