Nelson Mandela – a celebration of an icon’s life

UN General Assembly observes Nelson Mandela International Day

Tuesday 18 July 2017 21:47

Sherwin Bryce-Pease

Hollywood star turned social justice activist Danny called for the chaos in the world to be counteracted by the concept of Ubuntu.

Hollywood star turned social justice activist Danny called for the chaos in the world to be counteracted by the concept of Ubuntu.

At the United Nations in New York, a host of tributes have described Nelson Mandela as a far-seeing man of conscience, a voice of the power of tolerance and a man who represented the best of humanity.

Led by the Secretary General Antonio Guterres and actor/activist Danny Glover, the UN General Assembly has observed the Nelson Mandela International Day it famously declared through a consensus resolution in November of 2009.

For an organisation grappling with multiple crises around the world, speaker after speaker has channeled the values of Madiba as a compass that can lead in a better direction.

Guterres told the audience that the best way to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela is not through words but actions.

“I had the honour of meeting Nelson Mandela several times, including during South Africa’s transition. Each time, I was struck by his wisdom, his compassion, and above all, his humility. One of the most important lessons we can learn from Nelson Mandela is that to make progress, we must look forward, however difficult that may be. Nelson Mandela was known as prisoner 46664 for 18 years. But he never became a prisoner of his past.”

General Assembly President, Peter Thomson says: “President Mandela championed the reconciliation of his people and worked tirelessly for peace and democracy and he transcended South Africa’s borders inspiring people across the world to overcome racism, protect human rights, promote social justice and end poverty. In so many ways, president Mandela’s fight for a just and fair world remains as relevant today as it was during his lifetime.”

Hollywood star turned social justice activist Danny Glover who played Madiba in the 1987 film Mandela, and was with Madiba when he first visited the United States after his release in 1990, called for the chaos in the world to be counteracted by the concept of Ubuntu.

“Mandela demonstrated that Ubuntu can save democracy and inspire the kinds of communities that can protect us from chaos. Contemplating the current political moment requires contemplation of the human spirit, we must look towards Mandela’s legacy not merely as admires but as inspired practitioners of his art form. Ultimately it is not so much the personal spirit of Mandela that we are commemorating today but rather the excellence with which he embodied the spirit of Ubuntu.”

Representing the South African Government, Environment Minister Edna Molewa said Madiba remained the glue that kept the country together.

“The world must continue to see the genius, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, both as a person but as an embodiment of unity of purpose and reconciliation. In life
and in spirit, Mandela remains the glue that keeps disparate and distinct South African and communities of the world together. It comes therefore as no surprise that Tata Mandela remains an inspiration to Kings, peasants, rich, poor, paupers, elite and the working class.”

Now in its 7th year, Nelson Mandela International Day continues to grow, with UN staff and diplomats around the world volunteering for public service to inspire change towards a more equitable world.  

And at a time when the UN has as it’s core the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Madiba’s words that it always seems impossible until it’s done, seem as relevant today as when he first uttered them.


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