Dear Campus Community,
Today is, as I’m sure you all know, Nelson Mandela International Day - a day where we honour the legacy (and celebrate the birthday) of a very special man: Nelson Rolihlala Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.
In November 2009 the United Nations General Assembly declared 18 July to be Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of Mandela’s selfless contribution to the fight for a free and fair world - a struggle against poverty and hatred, and for the rights and dignity of all humanity.
On this day, we remember this: that each and every one of us has the power to change the world for the better - if we’re willing to try.
And while Madiba (as Mandela was affectionately known) devoted 67 years of his life to public service and the upliftment of humanity - many of those as a lawyer and a freedom fighter, 27 of them as a prisoner, and five of them of them as the president of a newly-minted Rainbow Nation - on this day, we’re asked to devote only 67 minutes to those same goals (whether we are prisoners or presidents, or just regular people of any sort).
Walking the Talk: Changing the World, Bit By Bit
The University of the Western Cape has long been dedicated to fight against injustice and inequality, and to the ideals and dreams of Nelson Mandela (and indeed, when he set about to heal South Africa after apartheid, many of the University’s intellectuals were called upon to serve).
We hope that each and every one of you feels the same way, and we call upon the UWC community - staff, students, alumni and friends of the University - to join in the day’s activities, and to spend just a little over an hour following Mandela’s example...and changing the world, bit by bit.
This is a chance to walk the talk and demonstrate the kind of caring and giving society that we really want to see. If you’re not sure how to do that yet, I urge you to contact and join the Community Engagement Unit (Prefabs behind Administration) in our outreach efforts. Find out more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8syNMkKxrDY.
But don’t let that limit you - if you can think of any way to do your bit, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, I encourage you to pursue it.
If nothing else, we can all use this day to reflect on where we’ve been, and what we can do to help those who less fortunate to realise their dreams.
Of course, if you want to do more than 67 minutes of good deeds, I’m sure Mandela himself would not have objected. And if you want to truly honour his example, then living well and helping others on every day that isn’t Mandela Day would be a good start.
After all, as Madiba himself said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
I wish you a wonderful and productive - and significant - Nelson Mandela International Day.
Professor Tyrone Pretorius
Rector & Vice-Chancellor
University of the Western Cape